New World Development

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 January, 2008, 12:00am

Phone giant's executives keep mobile as shake-up continues

A major earthquake has rumbled through the management of CSL New World Mobility, the city's largest mobile operator. Since the appointment of Tarek Robbiati as chief executive in July last year, almost all senior management positions have seen a change of guard.

The story began when Mr Robbiati, Telstra Corp's former deputy chief financial officer, replaced Hubert Ng Ching-wah, a seven-year helmsman of the joint venture between the Australian telecommunications giant and New World Development.

The latest executive named in the game of musical chairs is Melanie Lee, formerly PCCW's senior vice-president of mobile marketing and, since yesterday, CSL New World Mobility's general manager of marketing communications and public relations. She will report to Christina Theo, the company's newly appointed chief marketing officer. This is Ms Lee's second time around at a New World company. New World Mobility's marketing director for five years from 2000, she left when her employer merged with CSL in 2006.

At the end of last year, Richie Ma, general manager of brand marketing at One 2 Free and New World Mobility, the two mobile brands operated by CSL, left for Hong Kong Broadband Network as marketing director. Meanwhile, Ben Hui has left CSL as director of retail business to become HKBN's director of customer relations.

The reshuffling hasn't stopped with marketing and sales roles. Adam Wong Yuk-on jumped ship from CSL's mobile network to Cascade, PCCW's wholly owned subsidiary, to handle its 3G network. Mike Robey resigned from his post as chief operating officer.

'We don't know exactly what had happened, but apparently the new chief is very tough and keen on expanding market share in Hong Kong,' an industry watcher said.

But it is more likely that Telstra, the new investor, has taken a tough stance. Mr Ng was supposedly replaced because he missed the business targets set in 2006.

A former CSL employee told Lai See that Mr Robbiati relies on a consultancy firm for strategies, with little regard for 'how fiercely competitive the local market is'.

In fact, the new management has been more aggressive in luring customers from rivals by introducing unlimited free intra-network short message services.

But market watchers wonder how much the new move will benefit the bottom line. The company is already among the most profitable mobile operators with an operating profit of HK$645 million for the year to June last year.

Culture gets sporting chance

As all eyes are on China in the Beijing Olympics year, it's a good opportunity to promote Chinese culture to the rest of the world.

HSBC, Cathay Pacific Airways, Geely Automobile Holdings, Hutchison Whampoa and Henderson Land Development are sponsoring China Now, a series of Chinese cultural activities in Britain, to strengthen the social and cultural relationship between the two countries.

The event is scheduled to kick off next month. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will officiate at the opening ceremony later this week in Beijing on his first state visit to the mainland.

Featuring a series of high-profile events and a spectacular fireworks display for the next Lunar New Year, China Now promises to be the biggest Chinese festivity to be celebrated in Britain.

In the first half and until the Games' opening ceremony, China Now will host some 800 events, performances and activities to introduce the very best of modern China to the British people.

PCCW lays bait for traders

PCCW, the city's largest telecommunications firm, is promoting its stock trading service on Now TV by waiving HK$2,888 worth of stockbroking commissions.

In this, it has a partner in Hang Seng Bank. Those opening a stock trading account will be entitled to a commission-free stock trading service until the end of next month.

However, Lai See remembers that Hang Seng Bank waived all commission fees for mobile stock-trading users last month. The new promotion on the Now TV platform seems not much more attractive than the previous one.

'It seems that retail investors may still prefer placing orders through brokers or directly making transactions online,' a frequent stock punter said.