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CFOs on the Move: Week ending October 26

Ericsson, ABN Amro, Nestle, Prudential, BP, Siemens, Generali, Southbank Centre, Amer Sports, TDC, JD Wetherspoon.
Eila RanaOctober 29, 2007

• Hans Vestberg has been appointed CFO of Ericsson, the Swedish telecoms company, following the dramatic departure of his predecessor, Karl-Henrik Sundström. Sundström resigned in the wake of an unexpected slump in third-quarter profits to SKr5.6 billion (€608m) from SKr8.8 billion the previous year. Analysts had expected profits close to SKr9 billion. The fall prompted a 30% drop in Ericsson’s share price at one point—the biggest intraday fall in the company’s history. CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg said Sundström had asked to step down and Ericsson regretted the decision. “No one in this situation had any reason to leave,” he said, adding that the profit slump was down to a drop in sales of network upgrades. Vestberg, formerly head of Ericsson’s Global Services unit, will retain this position until a replacement is found. He will also remain executive vice president of the company.

• John Hourican has been appointed CFO of ABM Amro, the Dutch bank that was recently acquired by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Belgian bank Fortis and Santander, the Spanish banking group. Hourican was formerly head of leveraged finance for Europe and Asia Pacific at RBS’s gobal banking and markets division.

• Nestle CFO Paul Polman has been appointed head of the Swiss food maker’s Americas division. The move is a consolation prize for Polman, who was widely expected to be named successor to CEO Peter Brabeck when he steps down in April 2008. Instead, the company appointed Paul Bulcke, Polman’s predecessor in the Americas division, as the new CEO. James Singh, currently head of mergers and acquisitions, succeeds Polman as Nestle’s new finance chief.

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• Tidjane Thiam has been has been appointed group finance director of Prudential, the UK insurance group. Thiam, the CEO of Aviva Europe and a former Ivory Coast government minister, will join the Prudential board in April 2008 as an executive director and become finance chief the following month, when current group FD Philip Broadley stands down.

• BP, the UK oil company, has made two internal appointments to two newly created CFO posts. Richard Hookway, commercial director of the group’s refining and marketing segment, has been named as the segment’s new CFO. Ellis Amstrong becomes CFO of exploration and production, the segment where he was also formerly commercial director. Earlier this month, BP CEO Tony Hayward announced that the company, which has been beset by safety problems, would be restructured under these two business segments in a bid to reduce bureaucracy.

• The Austrian unit of Siemens, the German engineering company, said CFO Harald Wasserburger has decided to leave by mutual consent with the group. Reinhard Pinzer, the CEO of Siemens VDO Automotive, is to replace Wasserburger, who is leaving to “focus on new professional challenges,” according to Siemens.

• Italian insurance group Generali has appointed Raffaele Agrusti, its former head of financial reporting, as CFO. It is the first time the 176-year-old business has had a finance chief. The company had been criticised by investors and analysts for its unusual management setup, under which it had two CEOs but no CFO. However, Agrusti’s appointment has failed to calm concerns. One investor—the British fund Algebris Investments—claimed Agrusti lacked international experience.

• Caroline Stockmann, the former head of global business planning at Swiss pharmaceuticals company Novartis, has been appointed finance and commercial director of London’s Southbank Centre. The company manages a number of arts venues, including the Royal Festival Hall and The Hayward gallery, located on the south bank of the River Thames. Stockmann, a qualified musician, is also a former finance and IT director of Unilever Thailand.

• Amer Sports, the Finnish sporting goods maker, has appointed CFO Pekka Paalanne as executive vice president. Paalanne, who joined the company ten years ago, will retain responsibility for finance.

• Hans Munk Nielsen, CFO of Danish telecoms group TDC, is to retire. After almost 17 years as the company’s finance chief, Nielsen says he would like to focus on building up his clutch of non-executive directorships. He already sits on the boards of Nordea Invest and OMX, the Nordic stock exchange.

• Keith Down, commercial finance director of Tesco—the UK’s largest supermarket group—is the latest in a string of senior directors to leave the company. Down will join JD Wetherspoon, the UK pub chain, as finance director in January. Press reports have speculated that the relative youth of Tesco’s board members means there is little hope of career advancement. For its part, Tesco said the recent departure of around five senior executives was a sign that its managers were highly rated by headhunters.

• Jose Luis Palomo, former CFO of Spanish energy giant Endesa, has joined Spanish law firm Gomez-Acebo & Pombo as a part-time consultant. Palomo left Endesa in the summer after 16 years with the company.