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News that Vodafone's worldwide boss Arun Sarin will step down in July came as a bit of a surprise, but from a personal point of view his timing is perfect.

He leaves as Vodafone posts a full-year profit of a whopping 6.6 billion pounds and Vodafone benefits reaps the rewards of its move into emerging markets like India, which has propped up the company's growth rate.

It was a different story a couple of years ago, when Sarin was weathering a shareholder tussle to get rid of him. Some of Vodafone's influential shareholders were frustrated that Sarin, who took the role as CEO in July 2003, hadn't outlined a plan to deal with flagging growth in Vodafone's stronghold - Europe.

There were some nasty headlines at the time and the crisis threatened to split the company's upper management. In a shareholder vote at the time 10 per cent of ballots were cast against Sarin. But the board backed him, and a good move that has turned out to be.

When I saw Sarin speak at the 3GSM conference in Barcelona last February he stole the show with his articulate vision for entering emerging markets - in Vodafone's case, India and Turkey in particular. India has been the real success story for Vodafone and now the company has its eye on expanding its presence in China - the other booming mobile market.

That's his real legacy - taking the plunge into new markets, spending big to do so and ensuring Vodafone executes well in those markets.

He's also been responsible for steering Vodafone away from a mobile-only strategy to one where the company has admitted it needs to be in the fixed-line broadband game as well. You don't have to go further than New Zealand to see evidence of that.

Vodafone's purchase of ihug in 2006 was one of the early signs that the worldwide group planned on becoming a full service provider offering triple-play offerings under the Vodafone banner. Other investments in broadband operators around the world has re-inforced that strategy.

Sarin only visited New Zealand twice on short trips. Herald Business editor Liam Dann interviewed him on his last trip here in March when Sarin was given an official welcome at the airport and met with the prime minister.

"New Zealand is leading the parade within the Vodafone family in terms of taking us to the world we are going to." Sarin told Dann.

Where Sarin's track record hasn't been so good is in innovating on services and picking winners in Vodafone's core mobile market. He panned the iPhone before this year signing a deal to bring the phone to ten countries through Vodafone.

Rival mobile operators have gained ground on Vodafone in the most competitive markets through the introduction of attractive all-you-can-eat data plans, strategic mobile phone handset partnerships and by doing away with the walled-garden approach to mobile content epitomised by the Vodafone Live portal.

Still, for a 53 year old CEO who has weathered some rough times at Vodafone, now is a good time to go out. The British press has come to the conclusion that Sarin is quitting while he's ahead. It's hard to come to any other conclusion than that.