Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ho Ching to quit Temasek

Feb 6, 2009

She will be succeeded by ex-BHP's Goodyear.

By Ignatius Low

AFTER more than six years at Temasek Holdings, Ms Ho Ching, 55, is stepping down as its chief executive officer, making way for an American who will take the helm in October.

Charles W. Goodyear, 51, the former boss of mining giant BHP Billiton, will be appointed CEO-designate on March 1 and he will officially take over from Ms Ho, after a six-month transition period, on Oct 1.

The news took most by surprise on Friday and immediately sparked speculation as to the reason for Ms Ho's departure.

Addressing the issue at a media conference on Friday afternoon, Temasek chairman S. Dhanabalan said the investment company had been mulling the question of who would succeed Ms Ho as CEO since early 2005.

Then, in 2007, it found its man in Mr Goodyear.

'The availability of a very qualified and suitable candidate triggered the Board and Ho Ching to consider a change of leadership in Temasek,' he said.

'Since then, Ho Ching and the Board have been engaged in due dillgence and in trying to attract Chip in as Ho Ching's successor.'

Temasek, which managed $185 billion in assets as at end-March last year, has seen the value of its investments fall in tandem with global markets, following the financial crisis which erupted last September.

The company is currently staring at paper losses running into the billions, having taken major stakes in international banks like Barclays and Merrill Lynch.

Mr Dhanabalan on Friday dismissed talk that these 'losses', as well those from the company's investments in Thailand's Shin Corp, were the reason for Ms Ho's departure

'Absolutely not... It has got nothing to do with performance,' he said emphatically.

He added: 'I would be a little cautious in coming to the conclucion that these investments are losses because we have a long term view about investments.

'It's too early to say whther some of them will, in fact, result in a big loss.'

Temasek has also taken large stakes in Standard Chartered Plc, DBS Group Holdings Ltd and Barclays Plc.

Mr Dhanabalan said Ms Ho's resignation has 'got nothing to do with performance'.

Wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Ms Ho was appointed to Temasek's board in early 2002 and became chief executive in January 2004.

She was hired 'purely on the basis of merit and not on her relationship with anyone', said Mr Dhanabalan.

Ms Ho said she has not decided what she will do after vacating the CEO's office on Oct 1. She will also resign from the board of directors.

'Chip brings capabilities that I don't have,' she said. 'I don't see myself as needing to direct it in any way.'

[So now one of Asia's most powerful woman will be a man?]

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