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Outgoing Safaricom CFO roots for closer ties with parent firm

Safaricom Chief Financial Officer Sateesh
Safaricom Chief Financial Officer Sateesh Kamath at a past investor briefing in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG 

Safaricom’s #ticker:SCOM outgoing Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Sateesh Kamath says he will push for closer collaboration between the Kenyan telecom operator and Vodafone on innovation and technology.

Mr Kamath, who was promoted to Vodafone Business CFO, based in London, said one of such collaboration would be in the fifth-generation (5G) mobile internet services but also how to move the mobile money service M-Pesa to the next level of digital payment.

Safaricom plans to launch Kenya’s first 5G services this year targeting major urban centres. The superfast 5G service is a central part of its attempts to further expand its data business to counter slower growth in voice calls revenue.

“Vodafone and Safaricom are partners in many facets of business. There are places where Safaricom is super advanced, M-pesa is one example and there are places where Vodafone is super advanced, 5G is one example,” Mr Kamath said in a Friday interview with the Business Daily. “And now Safaricom has got even stronger friends now sitting there in the headquarters (Vodafone) who will always look out and jump at every opportunity to support each other.”

Mr Kamath will be reporting to the British firm Vodafone Business chief executive Vinod Kumar besides serving as a member of Vodafone Group Finance Leadership in his new role effective July 1.

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Mr Kamath joined Safaricom in August 2016 as CFO.

Vodacom and Vodafone own a combined 40 percent stake in the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firm, which pioneered the M-Pesa service.

Mr Kamath, who briefly took the helm of Safaricom when late chief executive Bob Collymore had taken medical leave to receive specialised treatment, said his decision to leave Safaricom was based on the Vodafone opportunity and not executive shifts at the Kenyan telco.

Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa took the helm on April 1.

“Opportunities like don’t come often. This is a lifetime opportunity which I had to take. Unfortunately, the calling couldn’t wait because it was either I take it or may never have it,”Mr Kamath said.

“Given a choice (if) I would probably be a mediocre CEO or a standout CFO, I thought it’s better to do the second part. Peter is the right candidate to do his job,” he said, adding Mr Ndegwa’s global management made him well suited for the job.

Safaricom’s net profit for the full year ended March this year jumped 19.54 percent to Sh74.7 billion on strong M-Pesa and mobile data revenue growth that offset a decline in voice and messaging (SMS) revenues.

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