Ericsson CEO Leaves To Join BP

Swedish wireless equipment company said financial chief Hans Vestberg will become new CEO when Carl-Henric Svanberg moves to head board of BP Group PLC.

STOCKHOLM (AP) -- Swedish wireless equipment company L.M. Ericsson on Thursday said its financial chief Hans Vestberg will become the new CEO when Carl-Henric Svanberg moves to head the board of BP Group PLC.

Vestberg, 44, will take over the position on Jan. 1. He has worked with Ericsson since 1991 and has been the company's CFO since 2007.

"Hans Vestberg was early in his career at Ericsson identified as a person with outstanding leadership skills," Ericsson board chairman Michael Treschow said in a statement. "He has a proven excellent understanding of Ericsson's business ... (and) has been instrumental in developing Ericsson's industry leading services operation which grew threefold with good profitability during his five years of management."

London-based BP -- Europe's second largest oil company, said Svanberg will replace Peter Sutherland as its chairman.

"I am sure Carl-Henric will be a worthy successor. He is a businessman of international stature who is recognized for his transformation of Ericsson," BP chief executive Tony Hayward said. "Our shared views on many aspects of global business give me great confidence that we will work very effectively together on the next phase of BP's progress."

Svanberg, who joined Ericsson in 2003, will continue as a member of the Ericsson board when his tenure as CEO ends at the end of the year.

Ericsson said its main owners, Swedish investment companies Investor AB and Industrivarden, have said they want to see Svanberg as a long-term member of the board.

"With Carl-Henric Svanberg's leadership, Ericsson has become the industry's most profitable company and its market position has been tremendously strengthened," Treschow said.

Treschow said Ericsson's compounded annual growth was 12 percent in 2003-2008, and it has generated a total profit of 103 billion kronor ($13.1 billion) during the past five years.

Swedbank analyst Jan Ihrfelt said the timing of the CEO shift came as a surprise but that Vestberg's appointment had been expected after long-drawn speculation.

"He's the natural heir," Ihrfelt said, but predicted that the company's share price likely will take a hit on the news.

"He's still untried," he said. "But I don't think there will be any huge changes. I think he will probably continue with the current strategy."