FINANCIAL SERVICES | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Temasek CEO’s departure possible by August

Under Ho’s leadership, Temasek’s assets climbed 43% to $186 bn in 2010, according to a report from the Financial Times.

Ho Ching, chief investment officer of Temasek Holdings , the Singapore state-owned investment company, will likely step down in August, the Financial Times said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Ho’s departure is expected a month after Temasek releases its annual review for the year ended March, when it’s expected to post investment gains, the newspaper said today. That would allow Ho to leave on a “high note” after eight years, it reported. Jeffrey Fang, a spokesman for Temasek, declined to comment on the report.

“If there’s any leadership transition, they will know how to manage it in a way that there will not be too much disruption,” said Ng Soo Nam, the Singapore-based chief investment officer at Nikko Asset Management Co., which oversees about US$126 billion ($155 billion). “Temasek is more than just Ho Ching. In the past, where they had leadership transition, they had always executed smoothly.”

Ho, 58, led Temasek in its record gain in the value of its holdings in the year ended March 2010 following bets on Asian investments. Temasek’s assets climbed 43% to $186 billion (in that year, surpassing the previous peak of $185 billion reached two years earlier, the company said in its annual report in July last year. That offset the previous year’s $55 billion plunge, when it posted losses on bank stakes during the financial crisis.

Ho’s possible departure in August will come about two years after she had first planned to step down. Ho is the wife of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In July 2009, Temasek reversed its appointment to replace Ho with Charles “Chip” Goodyear, the former head of BHP Billiton, citing “differences regarding certain strategic issues.” BHP Billiton is the world’s largest mining company.

“When they had Goodyear in, and it didn’t work out, they smoothed it out as well,” Ng said. “They will manage things very carefully. I am quite confident; that has been the track record.”

Temasek has had an annual return of 17% since its inception in 1974, according to the report last year.
In the year ended March 2010, Temasek made $10 billion in investments. It spent more than $3 billion in the financial year buying additional shares of companies such as Jakarta-based PT Bank Danamon Indonesia and Singapore’s Neptune Orient Lines Temasek’s participation in rights offerings by companies in its portfolio bolstered its assets as the shares advanced.

The company sold its stakes in Charlotte, North Carolina- based Bank of America Corp. and London-based Barclays Plc at losses in the previous year.

Prime Minister Lee was named in May chairman of Government of Singapore Investment Corp., the city’s sovereign wealth fund that manages more than $100 billion of the island’s assets, succeeding his father Lee Kuan Yew. The elder Lee remains as senior adviser, the fund said.


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