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The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon. (Pace Danny Kaye and thanks to Robert Coren)

BT's poisoned chalice passes to yet another's hands

Posted By Martyn Warwick , 08 January 2010 | 0 Comments | (1)
Tags: carriers Finance Technology

BT's troubled Global Services division has claimed yet another CEO scalp. Hanif Lalani, a 26-year BT veteran has been forced to "step down" from the job with immediate effect. As Martyn Warwick reports, he'd only been in it since October 2008.

Yes folks, once again it's musical chairs time at Global Services. This time the Man (Hanif Lalani) who took over from the Global Services Man (Francois Barrault) who took over from the Global Services Man (Andy Green) is being replaced by Jeff Kelly, Global Services Man, who, strangely enough is not from the Isle of Man but from EDS in the States. Fourth time lucky, maybe?  I'll bet BT is hoping so. This is beginning to become an embarrassing ritual.

Hanif Lalani gave up the post of BT's group finance director to take on "the challenge" of running Global Services. Less than 15 months later he is leaving BT "to pursue personal business interests".

In the usual anodyne valedictory BT chunters on about Mr. Lalani “stabilising the division and then delivering improved financial results over sequential quarters”. If that's the case, how come he's been pushed out?

Global Services used to be the star division in BT's firmament but has been in decline for years. Indeed its performance has been so bad that in May last the UK's incumbent telco publicly admitted that was "unacceptable" and that BT itself would have to take a £1.3 billion impairment charge because of it.

Despite efforts to shore up Global Services profitability at the division, it has continued to falter. BT's profits fell by an incredible 45 per cent in the first half of its financial year - and much of that was down to the feeble performance of Global Services.

This morning, Ian Livingston, the BT Group's chief executive, said: "Hanif took over as chief executive of Global Services at a difficult time for the division.

He and his team firstly stabilised and then started to turn around the business delivering significantly improved financial results and world class customer service. We are very grateful to Hanif for his hard work in achieving this."

When Mr Lalani was elevated (if that's the right word) to the post of The Man at Global Services, this is what Ian Livingston, then said, "Hanif will build on these foundations, [presumably as laid down by the departing Francois Barrault] and take Global Services to the next stage of its development, delivering improved profitability, margins and return on capital for the group and outstanding service for our customers". It seems he didn't.

Today, Mr. Lalani is "not immediately available for comment but will "stay on with the group until March to assist with a smooth transition."

Meanwhile, US citizen and former head of American business for EDS, Jeff Kelly, also issued an upbeat statement also built (if you'll forgive the pun), around an architectural motif.

He says, “I am thrilled to be joining BT at such an exciting time. I know from experience that Global Services enjoys a terrific reputation for its customer service and client base.

I wonder who told him that?

Mr. Kelly continues,“My job is to build on those foundations and create a business that delivers value to BT's shareholders as well as its customers. Globalisation is here to stay and BT can help companies make the most of the opportunity it presents.”

Now, where have we heard that before? Those foundations must be pretty deep by now. Surely its time to begin construction of the building itself: The Leaning Tower of London.


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