VODACOM CEO-designate Shameel Joosub has been described as a "hard-nosed financial guy" who will take over from the mobile network operator's CEO Pieter Uys, who has received the label of the "geek CEO" by the industry.

"It makes absolute sense for Vodafone to appoint a person who has a very keen understanding of the financial side of the business now. The SA telecommunications market is very dynamic and is facing a lot of pressure.

"Even a small percentage change in operating expenditure can have a big impact," Will Hahn, Gartner telecommunications analyst, said yesterday.

However, Mr Hahn said the market probably had not heard the last of Mr Uys who, as an engineer, would have a very keen understanding of the technologies needed to drive the telecommunications sector.

According to a Vodacom announcement yesterday Mr Uys will hand over the reins of SA's largest mobile network operator to Mr Joosub, who is serving as Vodafone Espana's CEO.

Matt Peacock, group communications director of Vodafone Group, said Mr Joosub had stabilised the Spanish subsidiary during his 15-month tenure there, by leading negotiations in the frequency auction that would allow Vodafone Espana to launch the next generation of cellular network called long-term evolution, or 4G. "Mr Joosub also introduced innovative commercial contracts for customers in a market that is under severe pressure."

Spain is feeling the effects of the eurozone financial crisis and has an unemployment rate of more than 50% among its youth.

Mr Peacock said Mr Joosub had also led discussions with the Spanish trade unions on how to save costs for the subsidiary.

These included an agreement that the staff would take two weeks unpaid leave, while Vodafone Espana undertook not to outsource any permanent jobs.

"His past experience as Vodacom SA MD and the experience he picked up in Spain will stand him in very good stead to take Vodacom forward," he said.

Mr Hahn said SA's and Spain's mobile telecommunications markets were very similar as both had to operate in challenging environments where a key part of their prime target markets faced high unemployment rates.

He said that being the largest mobile network operator in SA, Vodacom was essentially the incumbent operator and it had two very active competitors in the form of MTN and Cell C snapping at it heels.

"I also don't think we have heard the last of (Telkom Mobile) 8ta," Mr Hahn said.

Telkom group CEO Nombulelo Moholi said she was surprised to hear of Mr Uys's decision to leave Vodacom, but that she held him and Mr Joosub in high regard. "Shameel knows the SA market and knows Vodacom extremely well. Pieter Uys, I have worked with for 18 years, and while I at times disagreed with him, I respect his technology knowledge and his business acumen. I hope the sector has not heard the last of him," she said.

vecchiattop@bdfm.co.za