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Daimler CFO to leave as Mercedes-Benz maker's revamp unfolds

Swede Ola Kallenius, 49, the first non-German to take the helm of Daimler, will become CEO in 2019.


DAIMLER AG chief financial officer Bodo Uebber will leave the maker of Mercedes-Benz luxury cars, marking the first top-level departure after the German manufacturer picked Ola Kallenius to take over as chief executive officer next year.

Mr Uebber, 59, informed supervisory board chairman Manfred Bischoff that "he is not seeking to extend his current appointment", Daimler said in a statement late on Sunday. It did not provide a reason for the planned departure. His contract expires in December 2019.

Mr Uebber was seen as a candidate to lead a holding company that bundles the three separate Daimler units. But the supervisory board's decision last month to give Mr Kallenius, 49, the same dual responsibility that veteran leader Dieter Zetsche currently has as CEO and head of the Mercedes-Benz cars unit, indicated this scenario was unlikely to materialise.

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The management change comes at a critical time for the world's bestselling luxury-car maker and biggest producer of commercial vehicles by revenue. Mr Uebber has been one of the key architects behind Daimler's new group structure, which was created to give its cars, trucks and mobility-services units more independence. Shareholders are set to vote on the changes at the annual general meeting in May next year.

Mr Zetsche last week defended the strategic logic behind the biggest corporate overhaul in a decade. He said in Paris that the proposed revamp should boost efficiency and help to eventually turn around a stock slide that's erased a fifth of the company's value this year.

Investors have balked at the new structure and called for deeper changes, including separate listings of the trucks division or parts of the mobility-services operations. Daim-ler officials have denied plans for a complete divestment of any subsidiary but left the door open for a partial sale. The overhaul has also been criticised for its cost, earmarked at around one billion euros (S$1.59 billion), and for having too little instant benefit to the company's valuation.

Mr Uebber joined Daimler's management board in 2003 and took over responsibility for finance a year later.

Mr Kallenius, the first non-German to take the helm of Daimler, will become CEO in 2019. The Swede was already the heir apparent to long-serving Mr Zetsche, who has faced increasing headwinds this year with the adoption of new emissions tests, a German probe into Mercedes diesel engines and growing trade barriers between key sales regions. BLOOMBERG