Does the buck stop with the money men?

It looks like a bad time to be a CFO for a telecoms kit vendor at the moment. Not only have we seen Ericsson CFO Karl-Henrik Sundstrom make a quick exit, after a 36 per cent drop in income for the third quarter, but now, Alcatel-Lucent number cruncher Jean-Pascal Beaufret is off too.

Beaufret’s exit was actually a bit of a surprise – we all knew bad news was coming – but the rumour was that Pat Russo would be up for the chop. Instead, there’s been a ritual sacrifice of 4,000 technicians and a bean counter.

But the bad news from Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent is symptomatic of the market. Next year, my colleague Mike Roberts expects that continued pressure on vendors will lead to more consolidation. Ericsson, Nokia Siemens and Alcatel-Lucent have established themselves as the top three vendors, but the networks businesses of a number of other vendors are still exposed. One possibility is that the long-mooted merger of the networks units of Motorola and Nortel will finally happen in 2008.

Of course, further consolidation is more bad news for the CFO community. Where do you take your CV when you’ve just left one of the biggest telco kit makers in the world in a spot of bother? Maybe the buck is stopping lower down the food chain these days, after all, it’s already hit a number of chief execs.

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