Grameenphone yesterday announced Yasir Azman as its new chief executive officer, making him the first Bangladeshi national to assume the role.
Azman, who would be helming the country’s leading mobile operator from February 1, served in various positions within Telenor since 2010 and is currently the deputy CEO.
He is taking over at a time when Grameenphone is embroiled in a bitter tug-of-war with the telecom regulator since March last year over unpaid dues amounting to Tk 12,579 crore after audits.
The operator vehemently disputes the amount and has taken the matter to court. The last update on that front is that the Supreme Court on November 24 asked Grameenphone to pay Tk 2,000 crore within three months.
But to crank on the pressure on the operator, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has stopped all approvals for new packages and import of network equipment, much to the inconvenience of Grameenphone and subscribers alike.
Azman, who holds degrees from prestigious London Business School and INSEAD, has been responsible for running one of Telenor Group’s highest performing commercial organisations while also serving as deputy CEO, said Petter-Borre Furberg, chairman of Grameenphone board, in a press release yesterday.
“I am confident he will continue to deliver great results in his new challenge as CEO,” he added.
Azman becomes the second Bangladeshi national to lead one of the major mobile operators, all of which are foreign-owned.
Mahtab Uddin Ahmed became the first Bangladeshi to helm a mobile operator, when Malaysian Axiata appointed him as the CEO of its Bangladesh operations, Robi, in 2016. Azman is taking over from Michael Foley, who is relocating to Africa, where his family is based.
Foley led an important digital transformation of Grameenphone, Furberg said in the statement.
Under Foley’s tenure as the CEO of Grameenphone since May 2017, the operator’s profits hit record highs on consecutive years. In 2018, the operator logged in profits of Tk 3,520 crore -- its highest yet.
But in the first ten months of 2019 Grameenphone logged in Tk 3,924.12 crore in net profit, meaning Foley oversaw another year of record profit. The annual statement for the 2019 financial year is yet to be announced.
The operator’s active subscriber base expanded by 1.57 crore since May 2017 to stand at 7.61 crore as of November last year.
He oversaw two consecutive years of record profits. “I am a true believer of a Digital Bangladesh and our vision of empowering societies, connecting our customers to what matters most. I respect the trust of our 75 million customers, and we shall continue to bring innovation in our services and technology to serve them better,” Azman said.
Shares of Grameenphone, the largest company on the Dhaka Stock Exchange, closed 6.31 percent higher at 246 points yesterday. It was the top positive contributor to the premier bourse, which rose 81.62 points.