Thursday, February 22, 2007

Maarten van Engeland leaving Bite

Maarten van Engeland, CEO of the Lithuanian-Latvian Bite Group, has resigned his post at the mobile operator effective March 2. He cites personal reasons, which rings (and is) very true, since Bite, especially in Latvia, has been doing very well. (We all know that it is often better PR for all concerned to have the CEO of a sick company go on "personal reasons" rumored to be a sick aunt, but this is definitely not the case here). Bite, with 197 000 users in Latvia, including the customers of several virtual operators using the Bite network, is doing quite well for a third operator. It was among the first to launch HSDPA in Riga and several cities outside Riga (LMT beat them by a couple of weeks in terms of just turning on the service). Bite is credited with increasing competition in the Latvian mobile market and creating a base for a variety of boutique virtual services (such as 5 +, catering to middle-aged Russian-speakers). It is also presenting a broad offering on the mobile television and music side.
So, to Maarten, good luck as you step off a tight ship sailing on a steady course!
Maarten will be replaced by James Jackson, a man with a background in East European telecoms until a permanent CEO is found.


Mārcis said...

Year 2007 will be cruical for Bite, we will be able to see whether they are here to stay, or maybe leave for good. As for now Triatel is the real nr. 3 operator in Latvia, if you consider revenue. Also Zetcom had better numbers last year. Since we know that Lattelecom will move into mobile voice business, it will be tough for Bite to get a decent market share.

James said...

I cannot tell whether you like Bite or not. You talk of a tight ship and a steady course but having done "quite well for a third operator" isn't exactly a ringing endorsement.

It strikes me that Bite has exhausted its room for growth in Lithuania (134% penetration, falling ARPU, higher SACs, 18% postpaid churn and unable to make an impression in retail postpaid - unlike Tele2) and is struggling in Latvia (1m prepaid additions disguise the fact that Bite actually lost active prepaid customers (-50,000). Additions in postpaid are declining in both countries and they run a wafer thin operating margin (0.5%) before investments and the large interest burden the new owners have added - good for the Bite user but not so obviously a tight ship. Am I missing something?

Juris Kaža said...

Your point is well taken. By tight ship, I meant that there was no large staff or lavish offices (i.e. the LMT office mini-tower)and that the whole thing was run more or less out of Lithuania. Thanks for the figures, where did you get them? Latvian totals are always distorted by Tele2's secretiveness.