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CNBC Transcript: Interview with Hans Vestberg, President & CEO of Ericsson


Following are excerpts from the transcript of a CNBC interview at Davos by Steve Sedgwick (SS) and Geoff Cutmore (GC) with Hans Vestberg, President & CEO of Ericsson.

SS: Well, two very important people here in Davos have joined us, Geoffrey, who's been at a very important breakfast, we'll talk about that later on, and Hans Vestberg, as well, the President, the CEO of Ericsson. Very nice to see you. Look, this is a great moment for you, the fact that they're concentrating on the technological, digital revolution, as well. What are you offering to the conversation, Hans?

HV: I think that everybody's looking for economic growth, sustainability, equality, and I think that what the technology is bringing right now, when it comes to mobility, broadband and cloud, that is coming out to basically each and everyone in this world, I think that's a very important discussion that we want to take place here. Multi stakeholders, between industries, between governments and other organisations, is going to be very, very important.

SS: Hans, there is a downside, and Sweden is a country which is great at negating that downside, and that downside is technology taking jobs, as well, and retraining its people for a 21st Century economy. That's a big challenge, though, from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

HV: It is a big transformation, and of course it's going to be changes in business models, companies are actually leaving industries, going bankrupt in this transformation, but ultimately it's going to create a much more sustainable world, and we're going to see a possibility to grow economically in countries that really need to do it in a sustainable way by using technology. Digital healthcare, digital education, smart cities will be enormously important, and that discussion is happening here, and of course, for a company like Ericsson, being in 180 countries, this is what we are working with every day.

GC: Hans, just a reality check for 2016, we came out of the final quarter of last year, I think, with you paring back some growth expectations for the business. Can you just talk to us about what you think 2016 will deliver for the company?

HV: I think that we had our third quarter report in October, and we discussed a little bit what we saw in that moment, and we saw a little bit less in China for that moment on an investment level, but what we also said was that when it comes to mobility, broadband and cloud services, that is a little bit decoupled from actually the macroeconomic situation, and that is important for any company in these times when the financial market is volatile and all of that. You need to have a long term vision, what you want to do with the company, how you transform to actually be relevant, because there is so much things going to happen, so I think that's going to happen, but let's see now when 2016 comes in here what's going to happen in all these markets.

GC: Where's the leadership missing at the moment in the markets that matter to you?

HV: No, I think-,

GC: Is it governments? Is it that they're not giving you security and confidence that rules are not going to change, regulations are not going to change, taxation is not moving?

HV: I think that a couple of things we have seen are positive. One is that many governments are thinking that broadband, technologies and digitalisation is very important. We have seen 30 countries, going to 140 countries having a broadband plan. The next step is of course that they need to use the broadband, because broadband is just broadband, they need to do something with it and that's the next step when we're going to have sustainability.

SS: And the other point, and we've got about 20 seconds left, you've got to push back against government, as well, because it's important for the technology companies to say, 'Hang on a second, there's privacy issues here,' there are security issues, I get, but you've got to push back as well, yes?

HV: I think that privacy and resilience of data and security will be extremely important in this technology revolution. We need to talk about them, and we need to enlighten ourselves, but I think maturity will come in, and we will learn better to opt out and opt in from services and sharing information, and that's going to happen in the next five to ten years.

SS: Hans, I think we've got to leave it there.

GC: Hans, lovely to see you.