César Alierta Izuel, chairman, Telefónica

Spanish incumbent carrier Telefónica is the fourth largest mobile operator in the world. Under the guidance of César Alierta-chairman since 2000-it became the first Spanish company to be listed in the NY Dow Jones 50 Global Titans index, in 2005. Alierta has previously held a board position at China Mobile, and retains a seat on the board of Telecom Italia, in which Telefónica holds a 9.98 per cent stake.

Alierta has built the firm into a company of two halves. While it has a sprinkling of assets in other parts of the world, the vast majority of its 169 million customers (Q109, Informa Telecoms & Media WCIS) are split between Europe, where it enhanced its bulk substantially through the 2005 acquisition of UK-based O2, and Latin America, where the firm plays a strong second fiddle to the regional might of America Movil.

Alierta is keen to keep his shareholders happy, and has made a priority of share dividend and buybacks. In 2008 the firm paid out €6.3bn in shareholder remuneration and in 2009 upped its dividend by 15 per cent to €1.15/share, on the back of what it described as its “strong cash generation”. But he has shown that he is not averse to further acquisition and consolidation, with Telefónica showing interest in the possible purchase of T-Mobile UK in June this year. Continued investment in its strongest two regions looks most likely, with further extension into Eastern Europe a possibility. The strongest of the old European incumbents, Alierta’s firm appears in robust health.

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