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January 28, 2022

Orange, France's biggest telecoms operator, on Friday named Christel Heydemann its new chief executive, making her the first woman to lead the former monopoly amid a revamp of its governance.

The 47-year old Heydemann, a former graduate of France's elite engineering school Polytechnique, will replace Stephane Richard at the helm of the state-controlled group after a court convicted him of the complicity of misuse of public funds.

Richard, who has led Orange for the past 12 years, denies any wrongdoing.

Heydemann who comes from French electric equipment group Schneider Electric becomes the third woman appointed to lead a company listed on the French CAC 40 index, after Engie's Catherine MacGregor and Estelle Brachlianoff, who is slated to take the reins of utility group Veolia on July 1.

Heydemann will start at Orange on April 4.

"As a member of the board for nearly five years, I have gained a solid understanding of the technological challenges and opportunities that lie before us. I know that these are significant," Heydemann said in a statement.

Richard was initially slated to quit the telecoms group on Monday, but Orange's board voted to maintain him as chairman until the company's shareholder meeting on May 19 at the latest. He will also continue to run operations until April 4.

Richard is also to be replaced as non-executive chairman of the group, as the group is also splitting the roles CEO and chairman of the board.

"Very happy to welcome Christel Heydemann, future CEO of Orange. A woman with professional and human qualities that will allow her to meet the group's challenges with the help of our main wealth: our teams worldwide," Richard tweeted on Friday.

Shares in Orange were trading up 0.5% at 1019 GMT.