TDF loses CEO Patrick Babin
Pascale Paoli Lebailly

French transmission operator TDF says that CEO Patrick Babin will leave his post as of January 2010, just one year after his appointment.

Babin will be replaced by Olivier Huart, who is the current British Telecom CEO in France. Patrick Puy, until recently the CEO of the Moulinex electrical appliances manufaturer, and who trimmed 3,300 jobs at the company between 2001 and 2003, has been named Deputy-GM at TDF and in charge of social affairs.

Puy will stay in post during all TDF announced restructuration period, but his hiring is not without controversy. The firing of Patrick Babin, as well as Patrick Puy's appointment, are seen as provocative by the French labour unions, with the senior hirings occuring in a very strained social climate at TDF.

Group sales are expected to tumble, losing 40 % of its revenues, ie around €150m per year, not helped by the end of analogue television. Last June TDF had announced a transformation project linked to the country's digital switchover in 2011. This plan, initially targeted to cut 500 jobs out of a total workforce of 2,400.

According to sources, shareholders lost their trust in Patrick Babin and his ability to lead the group's digital project that aims at extending TDF jobs more towards telecoms activity and mobile TV.

Now, employees are fearing a more drastic planned redundancy, under shareholders pressure. Since 2007, 42% of TDF shares are owned by investment fund Texas Pacific Group, 24% by bank Caisse des Dépôts, 18% by Axa Private Equity and 14% by Charterhouse Capital Partners.