Newsmakers of the year 2009

-A +A

T Ananda KrishnanMajority shareholder, Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd

T Ananda Krishnan is The Edge’s newsmaker of 2009. Some would ask, why? After all, this tycoon who controls Malaysia’s largest multimedia group of companies is press-shy and does not hold any position in any of his companies. But anyone who knows AK and how he operates knows that he is very much in the picture and no major decision is done without his approval.

In 2008, he made headlines because of his acrimonious fallout with his Indonesian business partner James Riady. That got people with a taste for mud and scandal rubbing their hands in glee as the spat went public with numerous lawsuits .This year, publications from Ireland to India capitalised on rumours that the 71-year-old businessman was behind an £80 million bid for Newcastle United Football Club, so much so that his private vehicle Usaha Tegas felt compelled to issue a rare statement in July denying it.

The rumours did not stop there. Would AK privatise Astro All Asia Networks plc or would there be a merger between Astro and Maxis, or both, with Measat Global Bhd?

But it was the surprise relisting of the billionaire’s most profitable asset — mobile phone company Maxis’ Malaysian operations — on Bursa Malaysia that won him the award of The Newsmaker of 2009.

AK had taken Maxis private as recently as 2007 but when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak told the press in June that AK and his Saudi partner had been asked to consider relisting Maxis to boost the local capital market, it created a buzz. A relisting had always been part of AK’s plan for Maxis but not so soon. CIMB Group CEO Datuk Nazir Razak, who handled the privatisation in 2007 and the relisting, publicly stated on at least two occasions that the IPO was taking place earlier than planned. The numbers still worked out very well for AK. But then again, did anyone expect AK to agree to a deal that did not make sense to him financially? Through the US$3 billion IPO of only Maxis’ Malaysian operations, AK managed to clear most of the debts he had assumed to privatise it in 2007 and still ended up controlling Maxis Malaysia. He also got to keep its overseas assets for free.

The man, who is always working on the next project, made the global headlines barely a week after Maxis’ mega IPO. The Australian newspaper, quoting unnamed sources, reported on Nov 23 that AK had taken up a significant stake in Fetch TV, an Internet TV company Down Under. Little was known about AK’s ambition there as The Edge went to press.

What is certain is that both Maxis and Astro are transforming themselves to stay ahead of the competitors as the telecommunications, media, technology and Internet worlds converge. That alone guarantees that AK watching will remain a prime sport in 2010, even if the man himself continues to operate in the background. - By Cindy Yeap

Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar President & CEO, Malayan Banking Bhd

For Maybank, 2009 has been a year of reckoning, following its controversial acquisition spree in 2008. In the hot seat is CEO Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar. He only stepped into the position at the tail end of those acquisitions and had the unenviable task of ensuring that Maybank’s foreign acquisitions, particularly Bank Internasional Indonesia (BII), delivered the results amid a global meltdown.

Wahid did what needed to be done — in 4QFY2009, Maybank made a RM1.6 billion impairment charge for BII and a RM111 million charge for its Pakistan-based MCB Bank Ltd, enabling the group to start on a clean slate.

Wahid, in an interview with The Edge on BII in August this year, said: “We’re not looking back. Let’s look forward. We have a strong franchise on [PT Bank Internasional Indonesia] the Indonesian banking scene.”

Is the worst over for Maybank? It appears so. The banking group gave the market a pleasant surprise when it posted a net profit of RM881.8 million for 1QFY2010, 54.5% higher than a year earlier, boosted by stronger contributions from the majority of its business segments, including BII.

BII registered an after-tax profit of 131 billion rupiah for the quarter compared with 11 billion rupiah a year earlier. Its operating income, after provisioning, grew to 195 billion rupiah from a loss of 13 billion rupiah previously.

Wahid said the promising contribution from BII was a recognition of the strong management team in place and its ability to leverage opportunities arising from the strong upturn in the Indonesian economy.

On the local front, Wahid will also have to fend off competition from local banks in an increasingly saturated market. The No 2 lender in terms of market capitalisation, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd, is just RM1 billion shy of Maybank’s market cap. — By Yong Yen Nie

The Naza boys

The Naza Group of Companies is the flagship of the late “AP King” Tan Sri S M Nasimuddin S M Amin, who passed away suddenly in May 2008, leaving control of his empire with his young children. His three sons — Faisal, Nasaruddin and Faliq — run the group’s mainstay of auto and property while the hotel and restaurant business is run by his daughters Nur Diana and Nur Nadia.

Although the various business arms under Naza group remain strong and viable, there have been murmurs of a family feud, with Faisal being at loggerheads with his brothers and an uncle — Datuk S M Zulkifli S M Amin — heading another camp. S M Faisal S M Nasimuddin Executive chairman, Naza Italia Sdn Bhd

S M Faisal S M Nasimuddin spearheads the group’s foreign auto division, with marques such as Ferrari, Maserati and Brabus. According to market talk, he is now negotiating to get the Chevrolet franchise under the Naza banner.

Naza group is also known to be interested in taking over automaker Proton Holdings Bhd, but is up against both local stalwarts like DRB-Hicom Bhd and foreign players.

There has also been speculation that the group is venturing into the oil and gas business, with Faisal playing a key role in this new venture. With Naza group’s deep pockets, there is no telling what the brothers may do or how large they will grow their businesses.

S M Nasarudin S M Nasimuddin (seated) and S M Faliq S M NasimuddinExecutive chairman and executive vice-chairman, Kumpulan Jetson Bhd The two younger male siblings S M Nasarudin S M Nasimuddin and S M Faliq S M Nasimuddin made headlines in August when they took over construction outfit Kumpulan Jetson Bhd. They were appointed executive chairman and executive vice-chairman of the board respectively.

This marked their first foray into the realm of publicly traded companies. What they plan to do with Jetson has been a hot topic in the market.

Although he is on Kumpulan Jetson’s board, Nasarudin largely handles Naza group’s local automotive business, including the assembly and manufacture of cars, including Kia and Peugeot models.

Younger brother Faliq, meanwhile, handles the group’s RM4 billion gross development value property arm, parked under Naza TTDI Sdn Bhd. Interestingly, developments at Naza TTDI could stem from its RM15 billion privatisation deal, where the company will build for Matrade a convention centre, residences, offices, a shopping mall and a hotel on a 65-acre tract in Jalan Duta. This gargantuan deal has created a stir, with questions raised on why the company was given the deal and demands for transparency and open tenders. — By Jose Barrock

Datuk Tan Heng ChewExecutive deputy chairman,Tan Chong Motor Holdings Bhd

It’s difficult for extended families to live in the same house. Relationships are smoother when each family has its own residence. That’s the lesson learnt from the Tan Chong family feud that was finally settled this year.

The businesses of the extended Tan family of the Tan Chong group are housed under  the single holding company of Tan Chong Consolidated Sdn Bhd (TCC). Disputes over management roles and control rocked the family for a good 10 years. The long-drawn-out dispute was finally resolved in June this year when the two branches of the Tan family reached a “compromise and settlement agreement”, according to an announcement to Bursa Malaysia.

The two branches of the family comprise the offspring of the two founding brothers — the late Tan Sri Tan Yuet Foh and Datuk Tan Kim Hor.

The Yuet Foh progeny is led by his eldest son Tan Heng Chew, who heads the Malaysian businesses, while the second eldest, Tan Eng Soon, is chairman of Tan Chong International Ltd, which has its primary listing in Hong Kong and secondary listing in Singapore. 

In Malaysia, the listed companies under Heng Chew’s watch are Tan Chong Motor Holdings Bhd (TCMH), APM Automotive Holdings Bhd and Warisan TC Holdings Bhd.

Under the settlement agreement, control of these companies will lie with the Yuet Foh branch of the family. This appears to have been an issue of priority for the family.

The Kim Hor clan will receive a fortune worth hundreds of millions of ringgit in cash and in the shares of the four listed companies in the group.

The shares will be released to members of Kim Hor’s family over five years. The first release was made on Dec 12, 2009. It is understood that each member of Kim Hor’s family received his own portion of shares — if he owned 1% of a company through TCC, he received 1% of the shares.

TCC transferred 82.4 million TCMH shares to a trustee on Nov 30 for progressive release to Kim Hor’s family. It was announced this month that the first release of 8.8 million TCMH shares was distributed to members of Kim Hor’s family. If they wish to sell the shares, TCC is to be offered right of first refusal.

Since the settlement, TCMH has mapped out plans for further wealth creation. This includes the redevelopment of its Segambut property and preparation for the assembly and launch of small cars in 2012. TCMH’s share price reached an all-time high in November.

It was an amicable and mutually advantageous settlement. Both sides of the extended family are on speaking terms again. It was a stirring settlement. — By C S Tan

Datuk Siew Ka Wei Group managing director and chief operating officer, Ancom Bhd Low-key businessman Datuk Siew Ka Wei appeared on the radar screen of many this year. One of his major investments in 2009 — a 75% stake in The Malay Mail, together with business partner Datuk Mohamad Al Amin Abdul Majib — aroused the curiosity of many.

Standing 6ft tall, his towering figure may intimidate at first, but Siew is an affable businessman with a good sense of humour. When asked what he thinks 2010 will be like for a corporate figure who will be watched, Siew jokingly says: “I can’t even move a molehill.”

He predicts that there will be shifts in the business world as well as in the country in 2010. On his media play, he notes that there is a real need for people to be heard.

“The Malay Mail is the paper that cares. There are a lot of concerns and issues that need to be dealt with and we would like to highlight them. Ultimately, what the media is supposed to do is touch the people and give them a platform to be heard. If we do the right thing, everything will follow. If you become a relevant channel, people will come to you,” he says.

Following the buy into one of the country’s oldest newspapers, Siew and Al Amin are now looking at taking over Bernama TV and are also said to be eyeing financial daily The Malaysian Reserve.

When asked if he was looking at any other media buys, Siew replies: “Any opportunity that comes along, we will look at it.”Siew is one of the founders of Ancom Bhd, a company that manufactures agricultural chemicals and herbicides in Malaysia.

Ancom also has a subsiary called Ancom Logistics Bhd (previously called Tamco Corporate Holdings Bhd). He is also the chairman of the Malaysian Charter of the Young Presidents Organisation, an international grouping of more than 8,500 CEOs of major companies in the world.

Siew is also a partner at Redberry and Meru Utama, two firms involved in outdoor advertising.  — By Joyce Goh

Datuk Mohd Bakke SallehGroup managing director, Felda Holdings Bhd

The chartered accountant, who is also a graduate of the London School of Economics, is touted as a shining star among professional managers leading government-linked companies (GLCs) in the Najib administration.

After cleaning up the investment portfolio of Lembaga Tabung Haji and streamlining the pilgrims fund’s operations between 2001 and 2005, Bakke was appointed CEO of Felda Holdings, the biggest plantation outfit in Malaysia that manages close to 800,000 acres.

Prior to his arrival, Felda’s string of contracts, ranging from procurement of fertiliser to the upkeep of 70 palm oil mills, was the monopoly of politically connected contractors.

It is said the no-nonsense 54-year-old Bakke was even threatened as he got down to restructuring Felda, trimming its excesses. Felda then was under the watch of Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Today, Felda is at the tail end of the restructuring, with its unit Felda Global poised to play a prominent role in Malaysia’s foray off the local shores. Domestically, Felda is the biggest sugar refiner after buying the interest of Robert Kuok’s PPB Group in October this year in an exercise that cost RM1.2 billion.

Because of his performance in Felda, Bakke is said to be groomed for bigger things, such as heading Petronas, among others. However, this is only speculation. Moreover, there is still work to be done at Felda, an organisation that plays a pivotal role in the lives of 1.2 million settlers, largely Malay, who form an important voter base for Umno.

The low-profile Bakke recently quit his position as a member of the economic advisory panel of 1Malaysia Development Bhd due to differences over strategy. Ironically, 1MDB is also a Najib initiative but is managed by a different set of people. — By M Shanmugam

Shahril Ridza Ridzuan, Deputy CEO, the Employees Provident Fund

As the theme song for the classic comedy The Jeffersons goes, former Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd’s (MRCB) managing director Shahril Ridza Ridzuan is definitely “moving on up”.

As of Dec 1, Shahril became deputy CEO of one of the most influential organisations in Malaysia — the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). He is now the second-in-command at a RM342 billion fund.

Before his latest move, Shahril was already making a name for himself in government-linked company MRCB, which he joined in 2001. The company’s centrepiece is unquestionably KL Sentral, but its aspirations go beyond that.

MRCB recently embarked on a cash call that could possibly raise proceeds amounting to RM540.7 million, which will be used for future projects and working capital. The company has already thrown its hat into the ring of the Klang Valley LRT extension project by entering the pre-qualification exercise.

So, all eyes will be on how Shahril manages his new position, whether his property background will see a change in the composition of the EPF’s investment profile.

Having said that, the EPF is known for being a dyed-in-the-wool conservative when it comes to the management of its portfolio. So, how much manoeuvring room will the new deputy CEO be given?

Those close to Shahril often say he is very capable and quietly ambitious, with an eye on a brass ring higher than the EPF. But it would not be a stretch to say how he performs at the EPF will determine the rest of his career. — By Nadia S Hassan

Tan Sri Quek Leng ChanFounder, the Hong Leong/Guoco Groups

Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan made the headlines in 2009 when he bought an 8% stake in Hong Kong’s Bank of East Asia (BEA) in November. Quek, via his Hong Kong flagship Guoco Group, had been accumulating shares in BEA since April this year.

Market interest, naturally, was piqued by Quek’s move — what was his game plan?

Quek has been trying to acquire banks in Hong Kong in the years following his sale of Dao Heng Bank, a landmark deal that filled his coffers to the brim. In 2002, he tried to buy International Bank of Asia, then in 2003, Chekiang First Bank and in 2006, Asia Commercial Bank.

Quek is not known to buy into anything that is not a winner and the fact that he had amassed an 8% stake in BEA provided enough fodder for the market to chew on. Speculation is that he is after BEA because he wants to have a bigger piece of action in China, where BEA has a strong franchise.

Certainly, his Malaysian banking operation, via Hong Leong Bank, made several defining moves in China this year. Hong Leong Bank, which owns a 20% stake in Bank of Chengdu in the Sichuan province, has been aggressively building platforms in China via joint ventures and cooperation agreements with Chinese banks.

Although there has not been any new development since Guoco announced the 8% stake in BEA in October, industry observers say Quek, a master strategist with a nose for sniffing out great deals, may be biding his time before making the next move.

Knowing Quek and his Midas touch, he will most likely make a tidy sum out of his investment in BEA whichever way the wind blows. In December, he showed that he is not only making moves overseas but also at home when Hong Leong announced that it had obtained approval to enter into negotiations to buy a stake in EON Capital Bhd. — By Anna Taing

Rin Kei MeiNon-independent non-executive director,  EON Capital Bhd

The 74-year-old Rin Kei Mei is easily one of Malaysia’s most colourful but low-profile corporate personalities to have survived since the Mahathir era.

The Singaporean was sidelined by EON Bank Group last year following the entry of Primus Pacific Partners as the single largest shareholder in the country’s smallest banking group.

But he came back strongly this year, questioning the bank’s capital management programme after its capital adequacy ratio fell way below the industry average of 12% in January. This came about after Primus failed to inject new capital into the bank as expected while the bank redeemed its US dollar subordinated bonds that served as Tier 2 capital early.

EON Bank’s CEO Albert Lau subsequently left the company and was replaced by Michael Lor as the person in charge of the bank. Although Rin does not sit on the bank’s board, he is still an influential figure via his board position in holding company EON Capital Bhd. Together with Tan Sri Tiong Hiew Khiing of the Rimbunan Hijau group, he controls about 30% of EON Cap.

His influence was evident from the board’s rejection of a fundraising plan by the bank. Instead, EON Cap came up with a new scheme that involved Primus injecting capital into the bank and the issuance of more bonds.

Apart from the bank, Rin indirectly made his return to Perusahaan Sadur Timah Malaysia (Perstima), Malaysia’s only tin-plating company, this year. In October, Rin’s son emerged as a substantial shareholder in a private company that controlled 32.85% of Perstima.

But it is Rin’s next move in EON Capital Bhd that will be closely watched in 2010 after Hong Leong Group announced in December that it had obtained Bank Negara Malaysia’s approval to start talks to acquire a stake in EON Capital. — By M Shanmugam

Ng Wing-Fai Non-Independent, Non-Executive Director, EON Capital Bhd

When Ng Wing-Fai enters the room, he brings a wave of energy with him. The 42-year-old ex-Salomon Smith Barney (SSB) investment banker is certainly full of zeal. Having joined EON Capital Bhd’s board of directors in July last year, Ng has a lot planned for the local banking group. This is not surprising, given his vast experience in the banking and finance world.

Ng’s enthusiasm though is in stark contrast to EON Cap’s previous manager Rin Kin Mei. Although the old-school Rin no longer sits on the board, he is still one of the substantial shareholders of the bank and has influence over it. Thus, when Ng was appointed, many expected a clash of styles and there was speculation that there would be a collision between the two as early as January this year. Their differences in opinion were said to range from debt to funding issues. Ng is a founding partner of Primus Pacific Partners, an Asian private equity fund that is one of the substantial shareholders of EON Cap.

Ng is also the managing director and co-CEO of Primus Financial Holdings Ltd, which is one of the largest independent financial services holding firms in Asia.

Ng’s entry into EON Cap, however, is not his first foray into the local banking sector. After the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis, he had worked closely with former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin when SSB was advising the government on restructuring the banking sector.

Having paid RM9.55 per share for the 20.2% stake in EON Cap, which was at a 55% premium to the market price, Primus and Ng seem unfazed about not seeing their investment bear fruit yet. The banker is confident it is a good investment and that they can turn the banking group around. Can they do it? And with the likelihood that Rin will sell his stake to Hong Leong Group, can Primus and Ng work with Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan? — By Joyce Goh

Datuk Seri Nazir RazakCEO, CIMB Group

“This year has been a surprise — it was a good year,” says Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, the charismatic CEO of CIMB Group. “As you can recall, at the beginning, when we were doing our planning, the world was about to end, at least in capital market terms.”But as it turned out, 2009 was a busy and exciting year for Nazir and his team at CIMB. At a time when deals were scarce, CIMB managed to bag two that were landmarks — the US$3 billion relisting of Maxis  Bhd on Bursa Malaysia and the US$1.5 billion sukuk issue by Petronas.

It was also during 2009 that the group made Menara Bumiputra-Commerce (MBC) the new head office of its consumer banking franchises and announced plans to undertake a dual listing on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, where the banking group would be among the three largest listed companies.

Nazir’s hard work has not gone unnoticed.

Asiamoney recently named him the best executive in 2009 for his proven track record of success. In September, he won the Lifetime Achievement Award from FinanceAsia magazine, emerging as the youngest recipient, at 42, to win the award. The aspiring universal banker was also named Communicator of the Year at the third Malaysia PR Awards (MPRA 2009).

Despite being born into a privileged family, Nazir worked his way up to where he is today. The youngest son of the country’s second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak and brother to the current prime minister, Nazir joined Commerce International Merchant Bankers Bhd (now known as CIMB Investment Bank) as an executive in the corporate finance department in September 1989 and rose through the ranks to become the CEO in 1999.

When Najib became the prime minister, the perception was that he would consult his little brother on financial issues. But Nazir has always maintained that he was consulted like any other captain of industry — something that Najib has done ever since he became finance minister and prime minister.

CIMB Group’s success in the country has reached dizzying heights since Nazir took its helm. Now, the quick-witted, no-nonsense banker is aiming to turn the banking group into one of the top banks in the region.

So, what are his expectations of 2010?

“They are mixed — we are seeing signs of recovery globally but there are also risks of a double-dip recession… it is actually quite difficult to plan for next year,” Nazir tells The Edge. — By Joyce Goh

Tan Sri Megat Zaharuddin Megat MohdChairman, Malayan Banking Bhd

Tan Sri Megat Zaharuddin Megat Mohd, who replaced Tan Sri Mohamed Basir Ahmad as chairman of Maybank in September, is no stranger to the banking group.

He had served as an independent non-executive director in Maybank since 2004 and was the chairman of the board’s remuneration and establishment committee as well as a member of its nomination committee previously.

Interestingly, Megat had resigned as independent director in February this year, four months after Maybank concluded its acquisition of Bank Internasional Indonesia (BII) and the resignation and retirement of two directors.

Subsequently, two more directors resigned and another two retired, raising speculation that the boardroom changes were due to a directive from Bank Negara Malaysia because it was unhappy about Maybank’s acquisition of BII. These rumours were denied by Maybank management.

Megat has told shareholders that the road ahead for Maybank is not going to be easy, although he gave the assurance that the banking group will be steered by capable hands and professionals with the highest level of integrity and expertise.

With banking activities expected to be back in full swing in 2010, on the back of a much-improved economy, Megat is expected to have his hands full helping management chart Maybank’s course.

“To add impetus to Maybank’s transformation efforts, I will bring all my experience in this regard to ensure that the soul of the organisation is evident to all,” he told shareholders at Maybank’s annual general meeting in September this year. — By Yong Yen Nie

This article appeared in Corporate page of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 787, Dec 28, 2009 - Jan 10, 2010.