Two veterans depart as new Chorus boss looks to downsize executive team

Two of Chorus’s longest-serving managers – both veterans from the Telecom era – are exiting stage-left as new chief executive JB Rousselot looks to downsize its executive team.

General manager strategy & business operations Vanessa Oakley will leave the business early in 2021.

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Oakley was a founding executive in the establishment of Chorus after the demerger with Telecom – and has most recently been in charge of a transformation programme.

“Her contribution includes re-energising Chorus’ focus on customer experience and transformational change; building new capability and new ways of working that support our transition to a future operating model,” Rousselot said in a statement.

“With these all on track, and Vanessa’s input into the strategic review of the operating model, now is a natural transition point for her.”

Corporate relations GM Ian Bonnar is also leaving Chorus, having decided “it’s time to to do something new after his time at Chorus and Telecom,” a spokesman told the Herald.

“It’s not cast in stone, but it’s unlikely Ian will be replaced,” the spokesman said.

“The functions within his team will likely move and report to other GMs. JB is keen to reduce the size of the executive.”

Similarly, it’s unlikely that Oakley will be replaced.

“There is still some work to follow, but JB’s thinking is that with the move from Chorus building fibre to operating the network that there will be a downsized executive team and teams under Vanessa within will have new reporting lines,” the spokesman said.

Chorus is currently arm-wrestling with the Commerce Commission over the formulas that will underpin new telecommunications rules that will be in force from January 1, 2022 – which will include new regulations over anchor pricing and a revenue cap.

Rousselot – a Frenchman who arrived at Chorus via Australia’s NBN and Telstra – implied during an August update that too harsh an approach by the ComCom would threaten fatter dividends in the post-UFB rollout era – which in turn could put investors off future public-private infrastructure partnerships.

In its latest input methodologies paper, released on October 13, the regulator made a number of concessions to Chorus, including revising its previous view that Crown Financing was essentially costless. Whether it has moved enough to satisfy Rousselot could become apparent at the company’s annual meeting tomorrow.

Chorus shares were recently trading at $8.33, having eased back from their all-time closing high of $9.22 last month.

The stock is still up 58.2 per cent for the year amid stronger broadband demand during the pandemic, and the promise of much larger dividends as the UFB build wraps up and free cashflow increases.

Forsyth Barr rates Chorus “outperform”, but Jarden has a neutral rating, noting regulatory uncertainty and the potential for 5G fixed wireless to chip away at Chorus’ earnings.

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