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Celcom Axiata Bhd appointed its new chief executive officer Michael Kuehner.

KUALA LUMPUR: Axiata Group Bhd has defended Celcom Axiata Bhd’s new chief executive officer Michael Kuehner amid criticism over the appointment of a foreigner to head the subsidiary.

Axiata explained that it had set up a four-person leadership team comprising three Bumiputera talents to support Kuehner and help spearhead Celcom’s next phase of growth.

The three are Celcom’s executive committee (Exco) chairman Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim, and Celcom’s two deputy CEOs Azwan Khan Osman Khan and Mohamed Adlan Tajudin.

“The CEO appointment is meant to be a planned short-term measure with the view to groom a Bumiputera successor, either among the deputy CEOs or other group talents who are also currently being developed,” Axiata said in a statement today.

It was responding to remarks by Klang Umno chief Datuk Nasaruddin M. Zin, whom at the division’s meeting recently, said that the CEO position in Celcom should be given to a Malay or Malaysian.

Kuehner is set to replace Datuk Seri Shazalli Ramly who is being promoted to corporate executive vice-president and regional CEO for Axiata’s Southeast Asia operations effective September 1.

Axiata said the leadership team will be further supported by a new Bumiputera chief human capital officer.

“The Bumiputera succession is firmly in place. Both Azwan and Adlan had senior roles in Celcom previously and have also been assigned international postings in our operating companies.”

“We have also promoted at the same time a Malaysian as the new CFO (chief financial officer) to take over from an expatriate CFO,” it added.

The group said to ensure the Bumiputera and national agenda remains intact and on top of securing a successful business transformation, the Celcom Exco will meet more frequently than the board.

In defending Kuehner’s credentials, Axiata said he was well-respected for his understanding of Malaysia’s aspirations and sensitivities having worked here for the last 15 years.

“As a true professional, Michael is a long-standing member of the Axiata Group, and is committed to both the commercial and national objectives of Celcom.

“In his CEO role, he will continue to carry the Prime Minister’s approved mandates to empower Bumiputera human capital and equality of opportunity as his personal KPI,” the group added.

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