Cable & Wireless set to lose finance chief

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The Independent Online

Charles Herlinger, the finance director of Cable & Wireless, could soon become the second boardroom casualty of the telecom company's poor performance.

Mr Herlinger is under pressure to go after the company admitted last week that its financial results would again disappoint the City. The finance director could step down at the end of February, when the company is due to update investors on its UK business and strategy.

One City source said: "The problem is financial so it would not be surprising if the man in charge of the numbers paid the price."

Mr Herlinger, who joined from Siemens in 2003, is likely to receive a pay-off of at least £700,000. C&W refused to comment on his position. Last week Francesco Caio, who had been the company's chief executive for three years, announced he would step down.

There is also speculation that the company will use the UK presentation to take its Bulldog broadband business out of the retail market. C&W has invested around £250m in the operation but Bulldog has failed to win enough customers in a fiercely competitive market. Bulldog, plagued by customer service problems, is reckoned to have only around 80,000 users, making it a fraction of the size of rivals such as Wanadoo and AOL.

John Pluthero, the former chief executive of Energis who has taken over as head of C&W's UK business, could turn the Bulldog unit into a broadband wholesaler instead, where it would compete only with BT.

Last week, C&W unveiled plans to split itself into two self-contained businesses. The company warned that profits next year from its UK division, which includes the newly-acquired telecom network Energis, would be no higher than this year, leading analysts to slash profit forecasts by about £100m.

The problem was that this year's revenues had been inflated by non-recurring items, the company said, meaning that core profitability was significantly lower than City analysts had believed.

The company also blamed continued erosion of margins, high levels of customer turnover and the speed at which users were switching from traditional networks to the internet. It was the second profits warning within four months.

Under the new management structure announced, Richard Lapthorne stayed on as part-time executive chairman. The two new self-contained divisions will be the UK business, which will include the Bulldog broadband service, and national telecom, which comprises C&W's portfolio of profitable overseas networks. Harris Jones, a former T-Mobile executive, becomes the managing director of the international division.

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