Celcom CEO dismisses rumours of heading to MAS

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KUALA LUMPUR: Celcom Axiata Bhd chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Seri Shazalli Ramly (pic) has dismissed rumours that he will be taking over the helm of ailing national carrier Malaysian Airline System Bhd to revamp its business.

He told reporters during Celcom’s results briefing yesterday that he would not be leaving his position as the CEO of Celcom anytime soon to head MAS, jokingly stating that his “blood is still blue”.

“Whatever news that has been going around saying that I got an official offer and I would join them [MAS] tomorrow — that’s all completely untrue.

“I don’t know how it started or who started it. For all you know, there could probably have been some discussion about me, but I’m not in a position to say that I’m leaving Celcom to join MAS as its CEO,” he said.

He said he will continue to head Celcom for as long as his services are required, and that he has been entrusted to deliver Celcom’s transformation phase.

“So, I will stay focused on what I’m supposed to deliver,” Shazalli said.

Axiata Group Bhd CEO Datuk Seri Jamaludin Ibrahim had earlier said that none of the group’s top executives are leaving, dismissing reports that Khazanah Nasional Bhd may turn to Jamaludin or Shazalli to lead MAS during its restructuring.

Khazanah is reportedly looking at several potential candidates for the top job at a reconstituted MAS. Besides Jamaludin and Shazalli, other names that have cropped up include Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala, who served as MAS CEO between 2005 and 2009.

Meanwhile, Celcom posted a net profit of RM1.03 billion for the first half ended June 30, 2014 (1HFY14), down 2.8% from RM1.06 billion, while revenue fell 3.4% to RM3.86 billion from RM3.99 billion in the same period a year ago.

Christopher Tiffin, Celcom chief financial officer who was also present at the media briefing, said the fall was due to an absence of tax incentives in 1HFY14.

“In 1HFY13 we had quite a few tax incentives that we don’t have this year, and that is the key component of the reduction,” he said.

Its second quarter (2QFY14) net profit grew 0.6% to RM518 million, from RM515.3 million, while revenue rose 2.1% to RM1.95 billion from RM1.91 billion in 1QFY13.

Shazalli said Celcom is still undergoing its transformation exercise, which is expected to be completed by the end of this month.

“As part of any major transformation of this sort, some business interruption is expected because it takes some time to operationalise the new and improved processes and systems in the business.

“We have completed the two-year project and are at the tail-end of the stabilisation period,” he said.

The company has spent about RM300 million of its allocated capital expenditure of RM1 billion for 2014, and will be ramping up its spending in the second half of the year to optimise and improve its network quality, said Shazali.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on September 11, 2014.