Overview – Setting the tone

Alan Gow, the chief financial officer at Virgin Mobile, is, by all accounts a decent guitar player. He is even rumoured to own a 65 Stratocaster – the guitar of choice for Jimi Hendrix no less.

But Gow, 49, has probably had little chance to practice his guitar playing this year. Or even indulge in his love of sailing. That’s because Virgin Mobile has been even busier than the average mobile phone company’s complaint line.

In July, Virgin Mobile, after a false start or two, listed on the Stock Exchange. Shares debuted at 200p, valuing the company at some £500m, after Virgin had slashed the price by 20% just before the company was listed.

But if Gow somehow thought that might excuse him from the day job, he was wrong.

Although the company has remained tight-lipped about the release of its interim results, due today, it did put out a ‘pre-close’ statement that hinted at the news to come.

According to the statement, Virgin Mobile anticipated that ‘its firsthalf results will demonstrate the company’s strong performance in these key areas: revenue growth, continued capital efficiency, high cash conversion allowing rapid de-gearing’.

And in the year to 31 March 2005, Virgin ‘expects continued rapid customer growth for the full year’.

Back in July, Virgin Mobile announced, in its first statement since flotation, that it had increased its customer base by 7.2% in the first quarter of the financial year.

In its first quarterly statement as a quoted company, the firm said it had added more than 287,100 customers, bringing its total number of subscribers to more than 4.2 million.

The company is, not surprisingly, in a buoyant mood. And Gow can probably feel pleased with the part he has played in establishing such an upbeat mood. He joined Virgin Mobile as chief finance officer in February 1999. Married to Julia, with whom he has two teenage children, Gow has an MBA, with distinction, from Manchester Business School and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

He came to Virgin from rival phone company One2One. Gow started at One2One back in 1995 as head of business planning and control. Like his latter work at Virgin, this involved overseeing a major financial restructuring of the company. He also took part in a strategic review and refinancing of the company.

In 1999, he transferred to Virgin Mobile where he was part of the team that put together the original joint venture between Virgin and T-Mobile.

Gow’s experience extends beyond the world of mobile phones, though. He has also held senior financial roles with Hilton International, Perrier and Scottish & Newcastle plc.

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