UK markets closed

Cellnex's CEO Tobias Martinez steps down amid strategy shift

A telecom antenna of Spain’s telecom infrastructure company Cellnex is seen in Madrid

MADRID (Reuters) -Spanish phone tower operator Cellnex said on Wednesday its chief executive Tobias Martinez Gimeno has resigned after the company announced in November a strategy shift away from acquisitions to focus on lowering debt.

His resignation will take effect on June 3 and the company said it has put the necessary mechanisms in place for his succession.

After borrowing heavily to build the largest cellphone mast network in Europe, mainly through acquisitions, Barcelona-based Cellnex said in November it had adopted a "more conservative financial risk profile" in a higher interest rate environment.

Cellnex said then its near-term priority was to get a credit rating upgrade from S&P rather than seek further expansion.

The fast expansion strategy led by Martinez since the company's IPO in 2015 was welcomed by investors for several years as its market value multiplied several times, though over the past year the shares had lost almost 40%. The shares were down a further 1.85% on Wednesday morning.

Cellnex needs someone new to steer a new phase based on maximizing organic growth, consolidating the industrial project in the countries where they operate today and to achieve the goal of investment grade amid the current economic and financial context, Martinez said in a statement on Wednesday.

"All these factors have led me to weigh up the need for this stage of the Cellnex cycle to be led by a person with a time horizon that extends beyond December 2024, at which time my contract ends," Martinez said.

(Reporting by Joanna Jonczyk-Gwizdala and Emma Pinedo, Editing by Inti Landauro and Elaine Hardcastle)