Sarin to Step Down at Vodafone

Vodafone Group's Arun Sarin will step down as chief executive officer of the world's largest cell phone operator, a move that surprised industry analysts.

Sarin, who has held the top post at Vodafone for five years, will be replaced by Vittorio Colao.

"I felt the timing was right to hand over as the company is in a good position strategically," Sarin said in a conference call, according to the Wall Street Journal. "I've achieved what I set out to achieve when I took the position."

The surprise move comes as Vodafone returned to profitability. Vodafone announced a net profit of $13.25 billion, up from a loss of $9.6 billion a year ago.

Under Sarin's guidance, Vodafone increased its customer base from 120 million worldwide to 260 million, a feat accomplished by expanding in emerging markets in India, Czech Republic and Turkey, say analysts. And Vodafone's acquisition of India's Hutchison Essar is another high-point for Sarin.

Nonetheless, Sarin's tenure at Vodafone has been a rocky one, say analysts. Sarin clung to power in 2006, when nearly 10 percent of shareholders at the British-based telecommunications company voted against his re-election. The failed attempt to buy AT&T will also mark Sarin's legacy at Vodafone, say critics. And holding on to a minority stake in Verizon Wireless will also blemish Sarin's resume.

But Vodafone Chairman John Bond could only praise Sarin after the announcement of him imminent departure.

"He has led the company with distinction and navigated Vodafone through a period of rapid change," said Bond, according to MarketWatch. "He has developed a new strategy for the business and significantly expanded our footprint in emerging markets. The acquisition in India was very well timed and executed."

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