Hatem Dowidar, chief executive of e&, will join the Vodafone board on Monday, the telco having been given the regulatory green light to welcome him in.

Mary Lennighan

February 14, 2024

2 Min Read

The move will not be an entirely new experience for Dowidar, who held a number of C-level positions at Vodafone before joining e&, but will bring a certain level of scrutiny from across the telecoms space.

E& started building up a holding in Vodafone in May 2022 and a year later the two telcos inked a strategic partnership that saw them agree to collaborate in areas such as procurement, technology development and joint cross-border services. The deal also made provision for Dowidar to take a seat on the Vodafone board, something that lent credibility to talk of e& looking for a role in decision-making at Voda.

The UK government had a close look at the Strategic Relationship Agreement, including e& holding a stake of 14.6% in Vodafone – it may yet seek to increase that – and the plan to make Dowidar a director, and last month approved it, subject to certain measures designed to ease national security concerns. Amongst other things, it requires Vodafone to establish a National Security Committee to oversee any sensitive work that could have a national security implication.

"We are still going through the process," Vodafone's group CEO Margherita Della Valle said on the telco's analyst call last week, when asked about Dowidar's arrival.

"We look forward to welcoming Hatem to the board," Della Valle said, but would not be drawn further, particularly when asked about e&'s position around dividends and shareholder returns. However, she promised analysts "a fuller conversation" on that topic when the board accession happened.

It is clearly a bit early for that fuller conversation. Indeed, Vodafone didn't have much of any substance to say on the matter on Wednesday.

"I am delighted that Hatem will be joining Vodafone's Board," said company chairman Jean-François van Boxmeer. "He brings extensive experience within the telecommunications industry and has held senior positions across a range of companies in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. His appointment will further strengthen our strategic partnership."

That strategic partnership has already started to bear fruit, incidentally. In October the telcos announced they would together provide software-defined, wide-area networking (SD-WAN) services to the Dubai-based Al Futtaim Group, and last week they started pitching cross-border managed voice solutions aimed at other telecoms operators.

There was nothing from Della Valle in Wednesday's announcement, but Dowidar gave her an honourable mention.

"I look forward to joining the Board of Vodafone and working with Jean-François and my fellow Board members to support the rapid transformation being undertaken by Margherita Della Valle and the management team," he said. Which tells us pretty much nothing, other than that e& is supportive of Vodafone's current direction, publicly at least.

It might be a while before we see any real sign of e&'s influence at Vodafone, but we can be sure of one thing: the whole industry will have Dowidar and his company under a microscope in the coming months.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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