Spirent CEO says time is right for new blood

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The Independent Online

Nick Brookes, the chief executive of the telecoms equipment testing business Spirent, yesterday announced plans to retire in the summer as he predicted a long-awaited improvement in the market.

The 56-year-old plans to leave the company at the end of June after an eight-year stint at the helm but said he would stay on beyond that if a successor had not been found.

"The timing is right because we've been through two torrid years of a telecoms decline and now we're seeing more confidence in the marketplace and seeing our trading picking up and turning the corner," he said. "I'm handing over so my successor can take Spirent into the next era of growth."

Spirent said yesterday it had seen a "satisfactory" start to 2004 "which may indicate the beginning of a recovery in telecoms capital spending."

The upbeat comments came as Spirent, which counts such major companies as Cisco, Nortel, Nokia, Motorola and Verizon among its customer base, announced that turnover fell 17 per cent to £466.2m in 2003 while operating profits dropped 29 per cent to £36m.

Its performance in the second half was much better than in the first, giving rise to hopes for an upturn in 2004, although some of the improvement came from cost-cutting.

Mr Brookes said Spirent had seen "an increase in activity for the first time in many quarters" towards the end of last year.

In addition, he said Spirent's customers were also planning to spend more this year, having cut their spending plans last year. "They're coming up with forecasts for this year of flat to a slight increase in cap ex spending," he said.

"There are clear indications from our customers that they are going to be spending less on the rehabilitation of legacy networks and more on the next generation networks which is where we are positioned."