NEWS FLASH - Switkowski named in top Telstra job

In a surprise announcement, Ziggy Switkowski, former CEO of Cable & Wireless Optus, has been appointed CEO and managing director of Telstra.

Switkowski joined Telstra 18 months ago in the position of group managing director, business and international. He replaces outgoing CEO Frank Blount, who is returning to the US.

Switkowski will begin his five year term on March 1.

David Hoare, chairman of Telstra said: "We are confident [Switkowski] is the best person for leading Telstra into the next stage of its development. . . .This will include exploiting the opportunities offered by new markets, both here and overseas, and technologies, in particular mobiles, data Internet and other value-added services.

"A major challenge will be to continue the transformation of the company in to an organisation dedicated to providing high level customer service."

The news comes as a surprise following reports that Telstra finance director, Paul Rizzo and an US executive from AT&T were contenders for the top job.

An update to this report will follow later today.