* Board slated on Friday to formalise nomination - sources
* Orange hastened succession after Richard's conviction
* Role of group's chairman still to be filled
PARIS, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Orange, France's biggest
telecoms operator, is on course to name Christel Heydemann as
its new chief executive, making her the first woman to lead the
former monopoly amid a revamp of its governance, two sources
said on Sunday.
Few women hold top executive roles at France's biggest
listed companies. Heydemann would become the third CEO of the
Paris CAC 40 blue-chip index, after Engie's
Catherine MacGregor and Estelle Brachlianoff, who is slated to
take the reins of utility group Veolia on July 1.
The board of Orange, on which Heydemann has sat since 2017,
is scheduled to meet on Friday to formally appoint her as the
new boss, the sources close to the matter added.
Heydemann currently heads European operations at French
electric equipment group Schneider Electric. She was
not immediately available for comment on Sunday.
A graduate of France's elite engineering school
Polytechnique, Heydemann, 47, will replace Stephane Richard at
the helm of the state-controlled group after a court convicted
him of complicity of misuse of public funds.
Richard, who has led Orange for the past 12 years, denies
The Orange board meeting was formally scheduled on Monday,
but was postponed to Friday to solve some issues such as the
date when Heydemann would formally take over and a potential
temporary extension of Richard's operational role, the sources
Richard was initially slated to quit the group on Jan. 31.
His role as chairman remains to be filled, as the split of
chairman and CEO positions is part of the governance revamp.
Heydemann's name has been circulating for days in the French
press and presented as the favoured candidate of France's
finance ministry, which holds sway over the governance of
Orange, in which the state owns a combined 23% stake.
France's weekly JDD was first to report Heydemann's likely
appointment at a board meeting on Friday.
The new Orange boss will take the reins of the company as it
keeps on deploying the new generation of internet mobile
networks and broadband fibre optic infrastructure -
capital-heavy investments that have pressured its margins as its
two biggest markets, France and Spain, remain highly
The group is deemed strategic by the government and
scrutinised by the finance ministry and the Elysee Palace, an
important factor to take into account for any new CEO willing to
embark in a transformative deal.
Orange has managed to stabilise its revenues after the
arrival of Iliad's low-cost Free Mobile in France in
2012 triggered a price war, and it has expanded its activities
in West Africa, Poland, Romania as well as in cybersecurity and
But its recent financial underperformance, especially in
Spain where it had to cut staff, has disappointed investors,
with shares now trading at a price that is about a third lower
than five years ago.
(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain
Editing by Gareth Jones, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Susan