Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica says its board has unanimously voted in Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete as chief executive and chairman of the board.

Telefonica SA said in a statement Friday that Alvarez-Pallete replaces Cesar Alierta, who is stepping down after 16 years but will retain a seat on the company's board.

Alvarez-Pallete has been the company's chief operating officer and has worked directly under Alierta since 2012 in a process grooming him for the top job.

Telefonica is Spain's largest telecommunications company and has extensive operations throughout Latin America and in Germany.