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Australian telco Optus' CEO quits after network outage

FILE PHOTO: Optus shop in Sydney

By Lewis Jackson

(Reuters) - The head of Australia's second-largest telco Optus resigned on Monday, cutting short a more than three-year tenure marred by a massive network-wide outage and one of Australia's largest data breaches.

Parent Singapore Telecommunications announced the resignation of Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin days after a network-wide outage left nearly half of Australia's 26 million people without phone or internet for 12 hours.

Chief Financial Officer Michael Venter will take over as interim CEO, Singtel said in a statement.

Rosmarin said she decided to resign after time for personal reflection following a parliamentary hearing on Friday where Optus executives said the company had no contingency plan in place for an outage of that scale.

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"Having now had time for some personal reflection, I have come to the decision that my resignation is in the best interest of Optus moving forward,” she said in the statement.

Appointed in April 2020, Rosmarin headed Optus through two national scandals that have tarnished the reputation of the telco giant. A massive data hack last year exposed the personal data of 10 million Australians and triggered a class action lawsuit and multiple investigations from regulators.

The company was dealt a fresh blow earlier this month when a 12-hour network blackout hit more than 10 million Australians, triggering fury and frustration among customers and raising wider concerns about the telecommunications infrastructure.

Optus executives told the parliamentary hearing on Friday the telco provider had not foreseen a network-wide outage and so had no backup plan in place.

Rosmarin told the hearing hundreds of calls to Australian emergency hotline Triple-0 failed because of the outage although the telco had followed up all incidents and "thankfully everybody is OK".

Singtel said last week a fault in Optus' security systems caused the failure, not a routine software upgrade as previously suspected.

Rosmarin increased Optus' market share and improved financial performance during her tenure, Single said in a statement.

"We recognise the need for Optus to regain customer trust and confidence as the team works through the impact and consequences of the recent outage and continues to improve," SingTel Group CEO Yuen Kuan Moon said in a statement.

Peter Kaliaropoulos was also appointed to a newly created position of chief operating officer.

(This story has been corrected to change date of Optus network outage to earlier this month, not last week, in paragraph 7)

(Reporting by Himanshi Akhand in Bengaluru, and Lewis Jackson and Byron Kaye in Sydney; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Stephen Coates)