Jobs bloodbath at Proximus

The top of Belgian telecom giant Proximus (formerly Belgacom) has informed the Belgian government of plans to shed 1,900 jobs. The company's CEO Dominique Leroy was called in to brief government ministers about the changes at the listed company in which Belgium owns a majority share.

In all secrecy Proximus' board approved a new plan for the company's future on Tuesday.  It hopes to shed 1,900 workers, but at the same time recruit 1,250 new ones.  The company says that it is getting itself in shape for further digitalisation.  It requires workers with new digital skills, but claims it's unable to retrain many workers.

The Belgian state owns over 53% of the company. Belgian government ministers were particularly unhappy they had to read the news in the press.

The cabinet was alerted to the imminent announcement of job losses when the ACOD trade union spoke of up to 2,000 job losses following Tuesday's Proximus board meeting.  PM Michel then called Proximus CEO Dominique Leroy to give an account of the company's plans.  The news of around 1,900 job losses was confirmed after the meeting.  Proximus intends to shed 1,900 of its 12,000 full time jobs, while recruiting 1,250 new employees.

Earlier the Proximus share was suspended on the Brussels bourse.  42% of the company's shares are traded on Euronext.  The Belgian government owns 53.5% with the company owning 4.5%.

There is fury in government circles that the cabinet had to learn the news second hand.  PM Michel insists he won't accept a fait accompli so close to the May general election.

The former telecom minister Alexander De Croo had held out the prospect of a third player entering the Belgian telecom market, but Proximus immediately threatened to halt investments in the glass fibre network worth 3 billion euros.

Proximus recently increased its growth expectations following a strong semester.  Proximus is gaining custom, while rival Telenet is losing customers.  Telecom operators are making lower profits due to investments in a mobile 5G network and the loss of roaming charges.