Lapthorne extends contract at C&W

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RICHARD LAPTHORNE is to extend his tenure as chairman of Cable & Wireless beyond his fixed-term contract signed at the beginning of 2003.

The news will be welcomed by shareholders and analysts in the City who have recently started to regain confidence in the telecoms group. The company's previous management undertook a disastrous foray into the US during the technology boom and failed to settle tax liabilities with the Inland Revenue going back 10 years.

Mr Lapthorne was brought in on a three-year agreement in January 2003 to oversee the rescue of C&W and now has less than a year left on his existing contract. However, the former finance director of British Aerospace has decided he will accept a second contract although the details have yet to be formalised. Mr Lapthorne said: "We are on our way but there's nothing that's suddenly going to make this quick. I've got a lot of confidence in Francesco Caio's [the chief executive] ability. He's got a first-class brain and an excellent understanding of telecoms."

As well as coaching Mr Caio, an Italian citizen, in the vagaries of the City of London and the media, Mr Lapthorne struck a deal with the Inland Revenue, releasing pounds 1.5bn of cash on to the company's balance sheet, and withdrew C&W from the US using America's Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws. He also saw off a hostile bid approach from Pacific Century Cyber Works.

One City analyst said: "He's done a great job in turning around the one-off issues. C&W are beginning to make progress in the UK in terms of the operational side."