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September 3, 2003

INTERVIEW: Cochlear Chief O'Mahony Leaving On Good Terms

From: Yahoo News - Sep 3, 2003

By Ambereen Choudhury

SYDNEY (Dow Jones)--Jack O'Mahony, the chief executive of Cochlear Ltd. (A.COC), said Thursday that he is leaving the world's largest maker of hearing implants on good terms with the company's board.

Earlier Thursday, Cochlear said O'Mahony will retire as soon as his successor is found.

"When I came to Cochlear, I gave them a three year commitment and the three years was up a few weeks ago," he told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview.

"In discussions with the chairman, I said this is what I would like to do...given my travel schedule and outside interests."

O'Mahony, who will turn 58 in the next few weeks, also doused any speculation that he may be retiring because of any disagreements with the board. "Absolutely not," he said.

"He (Cochlear chairman Tommie Bergman) and I get along famously," he said.

O'Mahony said he has no immediate plans to join another Australian company, adding that Cochlear has hired search firm Korn/Ferry International to interview both internal and external candidates within the next three to four months.

"There will be internal evaluations as well as external," he said, refusing to elaborate.

"I don't have any scheduled departure," he said.

Chief financial officer Neville Mitchell will be speaking to major investors later Thursday to assure them there are no management problems at Cochlear, he said.

At about 0140 GMT, shares in Cochlear had fallen 2% or 66 cents to A$32.75, off a day's low A$32.60.

Last month, the company said that its 2002-03 full year net profit soared 45% to a record A$58.2 million as it capitalized on a health scare involving its U.S. competitor. The record profit boost was partly attributed to Cochlear's key Americas unit which benefitted from the woes of its rival Advanced Bionics Corp. in the fiscal first half.

Last year, U.S. health regulators said an Advanced Bionics implant might be linked with meningitis, causing the company to temporarily withdraw its product in July last year. That helped sales at Cochlear's Americas business climb 19% in the full year to around A$142.6 million.

In the U.S., Cochlear has about 60% of the market, while Advanced Bionics controls about 25%.

"Advanced Bionics are back in the market and they are a U.S.-centric company, so we couldn't possibly keep up the kind of pace we had last year," O'Mahony said.

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