June 9, 2017 / 6:41 AM / a year ago

VEON to add two new directors to make board more independent

FRANKFURT, June 9 (Reuters) - Global telecoms operator VEON Ltd said on Friday it plans to name two outside directors, resulting in a board majority independent of its two main investors and marking the latest move to transform the company.

In a statement, the Amsterdam-based company said it planned to put forward Ursula Burns, former chairman and chief executive of Xerox Corp from 2009 to 2016, and one of the world’s most high profile female corporate leaders.

It also named Guy Laurence, the British telecoms industry veteran who left last year as CEO of Rogers, the C$13.7 billion dollar Canadian telecoms and media group. He had previously held a string of executive roles at Vodafone.

Adding two seats brings the total number on the supervisory board to 11. LetterOne Investment Holdings, which owns roughly 48 percent of VEON shares and is controlled by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman and his partners, holds three seats.

Telenor, whose holding was a little under 20 percent in April, holds two seats. The Norwegian mobile operator, which has been in open conflict with Fridman for control of VEON, has previously said it plans to sell all its stake that once stood at 33 percent. (reut.rs/2kYH742)

The other four seats are held by independent directors including Stan Chudnovsky, a Facebook Messaging executive, to Julian Michael Horn-Smith, an early Vodafone executive and architect of its global strategy.

“I’m delighted that VEON has nominated both Ursula Burns and Guy Laurence to join the supervisory board,” Fridman said in a statement. “Their arrival further demonstrates our commitment to pursue the transformation of the company, building VEON to be a major digital company.”

VEON, the Russian and emerging markets operator formerly known as Vimpelcom, has overhauled its mobile network business in the past year to focus on a free messaging app, from which it aims to make money via web partnerships.

It has also sought to expand its shareholder base with a recent listing on the Amsterdam stock exchange in addition to its existing listing on Nasdaq.

The 11 directors will seek approval for their mandates from shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting slated for July 24. ($1 = 1.3507 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Eric Auchard; editing by David Clarke)

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