Vodafone reshuffles board in effort to halt Japanese sales slide

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VODAFONE HAS sent the head of its UK business to Tokyo to help stem the decline in its Japanese business after another set of disappointing monthly sales figures.

Bill Morrow has left his job as chief executive of Vodafone UK to become president of Vodafone KK, its Japanese operation, just two months after Shiro Tsuda was named as the head of Vodafone in Japan. Mr Tsuda will become the executive chairman of the Japanese business and the two men will in effect run the troubled operation together.

Mr Morrow's appointment was at the request of Mr Tsuda, according to Vodafone, who has spent the first two months of his tenure reviewing Vodafone's Japanese operations. Mr Morrow has a reputation as a trouble shooter within Vodafone, having previously tackled its fixed-line business in Japan, which was subsequently sold.

Although Japan is Vodafone's biggest single market, its performance is suffering because of fierce price competition from its rivals NTT DoCoMo and KKI and consumers' lukewarm response to a new range of Vodafone handsets.

In December Vodafone netted just 900 new customers in Japan, while NTT DoCoMo had 247,500 new subscribers. However, things have got worse and yesterday the Japanese industry body for the mobile phone market announced that in January Vodafone went into reverse, losing 58,700 customers ending the month with 15.15 million. The January figures reflected the post-Christmas quiet period, according to Vodafone. The company also noted that, within its overall new-customer figures, sales of third-generation phones in Japan more than doubled to 160,900, although that was still a long way behind its rivals.

Arun Sarin, the chief executive of Vodafone, pledged last May to fix the Japanese business but warned it would take up to two years to achieve.

The changes will take effect from 1 April.