Christel Heydemann at the head of Orange

Christel Heydemann ticks many boxes. At 47, she has a great career, with brilliant diplomas: Polytechnique, École des Ponts et chaussées. And a faultless career, much of which took place in telecoms: she spent fifteen years at Alcatel-Lucent, and the last four years on the board of Orange. More broadly, she knows the industry well, she also worked at Schneider Electric.

It enjoys the support of the government. The State, still the majority shareholder with 23% of the capital in Orange, weighed in for “let it be a woman”, in the words of the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire. Christel Heydemann also obtained the crucial support of the Élysée. On the strength of these assets, except for a huge surprise, she will be invested on Friday January 28 as general manager.

The challenges awaiting it are numerous: at the technical and industrial level, first of all. The priority is the expansion of the 4G network and the deployment of 5G to have smoother and faster internet connections. The government is counting on Orange to meet its objective: 100% of homes connectable within three years. This means work to be carried out all over the territory, to switch from copper to fiber, without price increases.

Orange must also innovate, in a context of increasingly tough competition in telecoms. There is also the banking part to be valued: launched five years ago, Orange Bank is still not in equilibrium. So many sites supposed to reassure investors while the action has been struggling in recent years.

The angry subject ishe modernization plan that the company is preparing, because it is a restructuring with a vast savings plan of one billion euros over three years, including workforce reductions. Even if hiring is planned, it is a particularly sensitive point at Orange – formerly France Telecom – which remains traumatized by the suicide crisis of the 2000s.

Admittedly, Christel Heydemann knows social matters well: at Alcatel, then at Schneider, she was head of human resources. But this part will undoubtedly be the most difficult to carry out.

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