Telecoms gear maker Ericsson picked Swedish businessman and board member Borje Ekholm to take over as chief executive on Wednesday as the firm grapples with cost cuts and an industry downturn.
Ekholm’s appointment comes three months after Hans Vestberg was ousted in late July as CEO following months of criticism over his leadership and pay, and over the firm’s slow response to deteriorating market conditions and fiercer competition from Nokia (NOK) and Huawei.
Ekholm, 53, served for a decade as CEO of the Wallenberg family-backed investment firm Investor AB and is currently CEO of Investor AB subsidiary Patricia Industries. He will take over at Ericsson on January 16 from acting CEO Jan Frykhammar.
“He has a solid understanding of both the technology and business implications of the ongoing convergence of telecoms, IT and media,” Chairman of the Board Leif Johansson said in a statement.
“Having served on Ericsson’s board of directors for the past 10 years, Borje Ekholm has full understanding of the challenges and the opportunities Ericsson currently faces.”
Ekholm who holds engineering and business degrees, said he was excited about the opportunity.
“As the networks and applications become even more important in a 5G connected world, our customers, and the industry, look for continuous innovation,” he said.
However, with 5G technology still years away, Ericsson (ERIC) is expected to face several years of tough cost cuts which will likely see thousands more jobs go as the company moves into a new era dominated by software and services.
“I think it’s overall a bit positive,” said Greger Johansson, analyst at Redeye.
“It’s good that a decision has been made, Ekholm has a good reputation in the equity market from his time as CEO of Investor and he has experience from the board of Ericsson.”
But others expressed concern.
“My spontaneous reaction is that this feels like an interim solution. Are they going to split the company, or prepare it for sale?” said fund manager Inge Heydorn at Sentat Asset Management.
Ericsson shares were up 3.25% as of 7:29 a.m. GMT.