At Virgin Mobile, our people are our greatest asset. Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa is led by a team of telecom gurus with over 100 years of combined experience in the industry.

    Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa Group

  • Erik Dudman Nielsen – Founder & Acting Group Chief Executive Officer

    Erik Dudman Nielsen

    Founder & Acting Group Chief Executive Officer

    Erik founded Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa together with Mikkel Vinter in...

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  • Mikkel Vinter – Founder & Director

    Mikkel Vinter

    Founder & Director

    Mikkel is the founder and Director of Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa, with...

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  • Antti Arponen – Chief Digital Officer

    Antti Arponen

    Chief Digital Officer

    Antti joined Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa in 2008 as the CEO for Oman....

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  • Kim Askjaer – Chief Technical Officer

    Kim Askjaer

    Chief Technical Officer

    Kim was appointed Chief Technical Officer in 2006 and leads the technology division,...

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  • Stephen Lodge – Chief Legal Officer

    Stephen Lodge

    Chief Legal Officer

    Stephen is the Chief Legal Officer for the Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa...

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  • Gabor Pauka – Chief Financial Officer

    Gabor Pauka

    Chief Financial Officer

    Gabor joined the Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa Team in 2015 and leads the...

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  • Zineb Filali – Group People & Corporate Affairs Director

    Zineb Filali

    Group People & Corporate Affairs Director

    Zineb Filali is the Group People Director for Virgin Mobile Middle East and...

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  • Operating Market CEO's

  • Fouad Halawi

    Chief Executive Officer – Saudi Arabia

    Fouad joined the Virgin Mobile team in 2015 as Chief Executive Officer for the Saudi...

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  • Michael Klindt

    Chief Executive Officer – South Africa

    Michael joined Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa in December 2009 as Head of...

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  • Karim Benkirane

    Managing Director - United Arab Emirates

    Karim Benkirane is Managing Director of Virgin Mobile in the UAE, where he is...

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  • Tariq Siddique

    Chief Executive Officer – Eris Telecom

    Tariq joined us in 2013 as CEO of Eris Telecom and has successfully established it...

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Erik Dudman Nielsen – Founder & Acting Group Chief Executive Officer

Erik Dudman Nielsen

Founder & Acting Group Chief Executive Officer

Erik founded Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa together with Mikkel Vinter in 2006 and he has more than 20 years of experience in mobile telecoms in both MNO and MVNO. Erik has a proven track record of building successful MVNOs in the world including in Saudi Arabia starting from the acquisition of the initial license and subsequently holding the position as chairman in the operational entity since inception. Erik is dedicated to ensuring that Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa maintains its position as the leading MVNO/MVNE player in the region with particular focus on the Middle East.

For the first five years, he held the position of Chief Financial Officer being was responsible for all financial activities, including local and global debt and equity fundraising. From 2011 until the middle of 2018 he worked as Chief Business Development Officer focussing on developing new business opportunities and nurturing the relationship with our JV partners across the region.

During his career, Erik has held many senior positions across several different countries in Europe, working with both frequency-based and MVNO-based greenfield mobile companies and traditional telecom companies offering both fixed and mobile services.

Prior to Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa, Erik was Chief Executive Officer of Realtime, a global VAS provider, where he successfully managed a turnaround of the business and developed a strong growth strategy for the company in Europe, South America and the Middle East. Between 2000 and 2003, Erik was the Chief Financial Officer of a telco corporate venture fund.

Erik graduated from the University of Aarhus with a Masters degree in Economics and Business Administration in 1994.

Married and living in Dubai with 3 children, Erik is an enthusiastic runner and enjoys spending time with his family and visiting new places in the region.

Mikkel Vinter – Founder & Director

Mikkel Vinter

Founder & Director

Mikkel is the founder and Director of Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa, with close to 20 years of telecom experience. Mikkel has a proven track record in successfully building mobile operators from the initial licensing phase through to growing them into thriving and profitable businesses. Mikkel is dedicated to ensuring that Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa further extends its position as the leading MVNO/MVNE player in the region.

Mikkel began his career in management consulting, working across a diverse range of telecom projects across Europe, Asia and Africa. He progressed rapidly through the ranks of both established and start-up telecom operators, including Ben Netherlands, Singapore Telecom and TDC. Prior to setting up Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa, Mikkel was the Chief Commercial Officer for Nawras in Oman, leading all commercial activities from pre-launch until the company was successfully established with a 20%-plus market share just 12 months after launch.

Currently settled in Dubai, UAE, Mikkel is married with three kids. When he’s not traveling, Mikkel enjoys a spot of sailing and running.

Mikkel qualified with a Masters degree in Economics and Business Administration from Copenhagen Business School, and has completed a marketing and management programs from McGill University and INSEAD.

Antti Arponen – Chief Digital Officer

Antti Arponen

Chief Digital Officer

Antti joined Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa in 2008 as the CEO for Oman. Since 2012 Antti has worked as the group Chief Digital Officer, responsible for driving digital transformation across all the group markets.

Prior to joining Virgin Mobile, Antti managed various telecom operations in Europe, started mobile services for Yahoo!, and held various marketing, strategy and venture capital roles within the European/Eurasian TeliaSonera group. Antti is a Finnish citizen holding a Masters in Finance from Helsinki School of Economics. Finland is the home to Nokia, the sauna and Santa Claus. No, Antti has not worked for Nokia.

His hobbies include photography, off-piste skiing, vibrant barbecues and a ripening PhD thesis on marketing and customer loyalty. The real driving forces behind Antti are his wife Annuska, son Alvar and twin princesses Sara and Rosa.

Kim Askjaer – Chief Technical Officer

Kim Askjaer

Chief Technical Officer

Kim was appointed Chief Technical Officer in 2006 and leads the technology division, handling  strategy, architecture, tendering, deployment and operations across the region.

Kim has over 20 years of experience in the telecom and IT industry and has been responsible for the development of the technical infrastructure within mobile operators, fixed-line operators and Internet service providers.

Between 2004 and 2006, he served as the IT director of Nawras in Oman, where he established the IT organization and handled strategy, tendering and implementation of the complete IT system portfolio within six months. He also headed the implementation of mobile number portability in Oman.

Prior to this, Kim held various positions at TDC and Contactel in Northern and Eastern Europe and the Middle East, leading successful regulator and supplier negotiations, merger and acquisition implementations and developing a strong track record for program management and change management capabilities.

Kim graduated with a Masters degree in Engineering in 1986. In 1998, Kim completed an Executive MBA (EQUIS accredited) from Copenhagen Business School.

Between 1981 and 1994, Kim was a Captain and Squadron leader for the Royal Danish Air Force, where he was responsible for planning and command on the field.

Kim is married and currently lives in Dubai. When he is not working, Kim enjoys flying (as a pilot), jogging and travelling.

Stephen Lodge – Chief Legal Officer

Stephen Lodge

Chief Legal Officer

Stephen is the Chief Legal Officer for the Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa group with responsibility for all legal and regulatory affairs in the group. 

Stephen has over 15 years’ experience in the MVNO space, joining Virgin Mobile UK upon its launch as the world’s first MVNO – including three years as legal head and management team member – through its listing as a FTSE 250 company on the London Stock Exchange and eventual acquisition and integration into Virgin Media. Prior to his current role, Stephen headed up the legal and regulatory team at another international MVNO and was instrumental in launching 20 MVNOs worldwide over a six year period.

Stephen originally trained and worked for eight years at two City of London law firms as a corporate lawyer, gaining substantial listed company transactional and governance experience. He is qualified in England, Wales and in Hong Kong and has spoken at high profile legal events in Europe, Middle East and Asia.

Stephen holds a Master’s Degree from Cambridge University and an MBA (Distinction) from Bath University’s School of Management.

Married and living in Dubai with his wife and family of three boys, Stephen enjoys anything involving family time, sport, mountains or food.

Gabor Pauka – Chief Financial Officer

Gabor Pauka

Chief Financial Officer

Gabor joined the Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa Team in 2015 and leads the Finance function across the whole group.

Gabor has over 25 years’ experience in senior positons in the global mobile telecommunications industry and has been responsible for leading top performing teams of over 300 people.

Leading the strategic and financial planning across all Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa operating market, Gabor has responsibility for growth management, budgeting, forecasting and financial reporting.

Prior to joining Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa, Gabor was Chief Financial Officer at Wataniya Telecom Algeria. Gabor has also held senior positions at major telecommunications companies such as, BTC Mobile EOOD, Celtel Tanzania and Vivendi Telecom Hungary.

Gabor graduated from the University of New South Wales, Australia with a Bachelor of Commerce (BComm – Accounting, Finance & Systems) and is an Australian CPA.

Gabor is married and currently lives in Dubai with his family. He is a keen linguist and currently speaks English, French and Hungarian.

Zineb Filali – Group People & Corporate Affairs Director

Zineb Filali

Group People & Corporate Affairs Director

Zineb Filali is the Group People Director for Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa.

Prior to moving to Dubai with her family, Zineb started her career as Production Leader in Decathlon Morocco then she joined Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa in 2008 to lead the People team across the Group.

Zineb manages the VMMEA People Strategy and all aspects of the People life cycle, ensuring that culture and engagement, amongst other people driven initiatives, are defining Virgin Mobile as the Employer of Choice within the region.

Additionally, Zineb supervises and provides consultation to management on strategic people plans, compensation, benefits, learning and development, budget, and people relations.

Zineb holds an International Business degree from the University Hassan II in Morocco and currently is preparing her Master in Strategic Human Resources Management at the Middlesex University in Dubai.

Zineb lives in Dubai with her husband and their two boys. She loves traveling and reading. Her dream is to experience the Skydiving.

Fouad Halawi

Chief Executive Officer – Saudi Arabia

Fouad joined the Virgin Mobile team in 2015 as Chief Executive Officer for the Saudi operation. He most recently served as Managing Director of the Lycamobile Group in Australia, where he built and headed the business from 2010 to 2015 and served as Senior Vice President for the USA in 2014. He has over 15 years of executive management experience in information communication technology in Europe, Australia and USA, having managed large P&Ls and leading global teams across multiple territories and different time zones.

Fouad currently serves as a founding member of the Australian Lebanese Chamber of Commerce, and he has also holds Chartered Marketer status, a merit designation of the Royal Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK.

Michael Klindt

Chief Executive Officer – South Africa

Michael joined Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa in December 2009 as Head of Programme Management. Michael has since been responsible for setting up and launching the group’s MVNO’s in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and most recently in Malaysia under the FRiENDi mobile brand. He was also part of the launch of Virgin Mobile in Saudi Arabia. Michael currently holds the position of Acting Chief Executive Officer at Virgin Mobile South Africa.

With more than 18 years of global experience in the telecom industry at various operators and MVNO’s, Michael has vast experience in setting up and managing new MVNO’s, different commercial departments as well as heading strategic projects in Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia and Africa. He has a proven track record of getting results in various companies with cross-cultural organisations in such different countries as Lithuania, Denmark, South Africa, UAE, Norway, Jordan, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Yemen.

Michael graduated with a diploma in Business Administration, majoring in Marketing Management from Aalborg University in Denmark.

Karim Benkirane

Managing Director - United Arab Emirates

Karim Benkirane is Managing Director of Virgin Mobile in the UAE, where he is overseeing the launch of the region’s first fully digitized mobile service, and is tasked with providing consumers and his team members with an entirely new telecommunications experience. Virgin Mobile in the UAE is a wholly owned business unit of Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company PJSC (EITC). Karim is a member of the Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC) senior management team and reports directly to Osman Sultan the CEO.

Karim has over 17 years of telecoms experience from retail and wholesale services as well as technology providers from around the world.

Prior to his position at Virgin Mobile in the UAE, Karim was Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia where he was responsible for the launch of the Virgin Mobile and FRiENDi mobile brands, targeted at young Saudis and the expatriate population. As the first Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) to launch in KSA, Karim and his team were instrumental in Virgin Mobile’s adoption of an innovative mobile-first market entry strategy and engaging digital experience, which brought the brand to life in a highly competitive and largely saturated market. This resulted in one of the lowest subscriber acquisition costs of any established mobile operator in the Kingdom.

Karim was also Chief Executive Officer at KPN France, where he was in charge of the MVNO launch, sales, marketing and business development of the company. He was also Chief Commercial Officer at Telecom Italia in France where he was responsible for sales and business development. Karim holds an Executive MBA degree from HEC Paris, and has completed programs from University of California Berkeley and from the Indian Institute of Management at Bangalore.

Tariq Siddique

Chief Executive Officer – Eris Telecom

Tariq joined us in 2013 as CEO of Eris Telecom and has successfully established it as a standalone international voice business unit of the group. Eris provides international traffic termination services to the group’s retail operations. Eris, within short span of time, has established strategic business relations with over 75 carriers and positioned itself as a strong carrier of choice for the Middle East, Asia and Africa regions.

Tariq is a highly energetic and dynamic professional with extensive experience in Telecom products, sales and business development, with special focus on international voice (retail & wholesale) and data center services. With proven track record of business growth for the companies like Warid, Telenor and a UK based MVNO, Tariq brings a wealth of telecom knowledge and expertise which complement our international calling offerings within the countries we operate in. Tariq is well-respected in the carrier industry and enjoys excellent rapport with large telecom companies all over.

Tariq is a graduate of Electronics Engineering from Pakistan’s top engineering school, Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences & Technology.

Tariq enjoys living in Dubai with his wife and 3 years old daughter. His great passion for nature and outdoors took him to camp at almost all possible locations across UAE last year. He is already eyeing some new locations in Oman for next season’s camping. He plays indoor cricket when he is not working or camping.