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Cover Story 2: How much did Malaysia’s top guns take home in 2020?

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on May 17, 2021 - May 23, 2021.
Cover Story 2: How much did Malaysia’s top guns take home in 2020?
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THE Covid-19 pandemic has caused many companies to be in financial distress, forcing some to temporarily shut down factories and operations for at least two months from mid-March in 2020 and experiencing lower demand after that.

With numerous firms seeing a decline in earnings, and many falling into the red, one wonders how much Malaysia’s top brass were paid in 2020 versus the year before.

According to data compiled by The Edge, among the top 50 companies by market capitalisation, the heads of 16 firms took a pay cut, 13 saw a bump in their paycheques and only Supermax Corp Bhd had no change in pay.

Of the 16 CEOs who took a pay cut, four had a cut of more than 25%, eight experienced a cut of more than 10%, two had a cut of less than 10% and only two had a cut of less than 5%.

Dialog Group Bhd executive chairman Tan Sri Dr Ngau Boon Keat took the largest pay cut — by percentage — of 45.48% to RM5.1 million in FY2020, from RM9.36 million, mainly due to his bonus being slashed by more than half (57.4%) to RM3.11 million, from RM7.31 million in FY2019.

Hong Leong Financial Group Bhd president and CEO Tan Kong Khoon took home RM8.15 million in total remuneration in FY2020, almost a third less than FY2019’s RM12.05 million.

Westports Holdings Bhd executive chairman Tan Sri G Gnanalingam’s total remuneration was almost flat at RM4.26 million, from RM4.27 million. His salary was unchanged at RM2.4 million.

Supermax executive directors (EDs) Tan Chee Keong and Cecile Thai received salaries and other emoluments of US$336,000 and US$264,000 respectively in both 2020 and 2019. The company, whose financial year end is June 30, saw a huge demand for gloves as a result of Covid-19 in mid-2020.

Time dotCom disclosed that its CEO Afzal Abdul Rahim received a total remuneration of RM1.57 million in FY2020, a 4.4% decrease from RM1.64 million in FY2019.

Of the 13 chieftains who received a higher pay, four had a more than 25% increment, four had a 10% rise, one had more than 5% and four had less than 5%.

AMMB Holdings Bhd group CEO Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir had a 58% increase in his total remuneration to RM6.64 million in FY2020 (March 31, 2020), from RM4.2 million in the previous year. As such, this increment may not be reflective of the operating environment in calendar year 2020.

It will also be interesting to see what will transpire in FY2021, following the bank’s RM2.83 billion settlement with the Malaysian government earlier this year over its role in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) fiasco.

Heineken Malaysia Bhd managing director (MD) Roland Bala received a 48.48% pay bump to RM3.89 million in FY2020, from RM2.62 million in FY2019, while Nestlé (M) Bhd CEO Juan Aranols saw a 40% increase in total remuneration to RM4.43 million in FY2020, from RM3.17 million.

Some may say their pay rises do not reflect the performance of the consumer-related companies in FY2020. Heineken’s net profit halved (-50.73%) to RM154.2 million, from RM312.97 million the year before. Meanwhile, Nestlé’s net profit slid 17.9% to RM552.7 million, from RM672.9 million.

Hartalega Holdings Bhd CEO Kuan Mun Leong saw a minimal increment of 0.41% in total remuneration to RM2.08 million in FY2020 (March 31, 2020), from RM2.07 million. This excludes an employee share option scheme of RM5.78 million reported in FY2020. His salary and bonus were unchanged at RM1.2 million and RM500,000 respectively.

As Hartalega’s financial year-end is March 31, the financial period would not have captured the peak in average selling prices for gloves.

At the time of writing, only two companies — Press Metal Aluminium Holdings Bhd and Axiata Group Bhd — had yet to release their Annual Report 2020, while 12 companies did not disclose the breakdown of the salaries of their top brass.

Newly listed MR DIY Group (M) Bhd disclosed that its CEO Ong Chu Jin received a total remuneration of RM1.1 million in FY2020.

Five companies — Tenaga Nasional Bhd, IHH Healthcare Bhd, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd, Sime Darby Plantation Bhd and Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) — saw a change in CEO during the financial period, rendering it meaningless to make a comparison for the purpose of this story.

Datuk Seri Amir Hamzah Azizan, who was appointed Tenaga president and CEO in April 2019 to replace Datuk Seri Azman Mohd, received a total remuneration of RM4.15 million in 2020. He resigned with effect from Feb 28, 2021.

Datuk Abdul Rahman Ahmad, meanwhile, was appointed as CIMB group CEO in June 2020, replacing Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz. Abdul Rahman received a total remuneration of RM2.41 million.

IHH Healthcare MD and CEO Dr Kelvin Loh Chi-Keon received RM20.23 million in total pay in FY2020, while Sime Darby Plantation group MD Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha earned RM3.68 million and TM MD and group CEO Imri Mokhtar —who was appointed on Aug 1, 2020 — received RM1 million in FY2020.

All eyes on glove CEOs’ pay in FY2021

The two sectors that have turned in stellar performances this year are rubber gloves and technology.

Among the big four rubber glove makers, Top Glove Corp Bhd executive chairman Tan Sri Dr Lim Wee Chai took home RM3.46 million in FY2020 (Aug 31, 2020), a 10.36% increase from RM3.13 million previously.

Meanwhile, Hartalega’s Kuan saw just a 0.41% rise in his pay in FY2020 while Supermax paid both its EDs the same amount in FY2020 as in the year before. Kossan Rubber Industries Bhd did not disclose a breakdown of salaries in its annual report.

Given that the exorbitant gains in profit have yet to be reflected in their most recent full financial year, perhaps a more significant pay rise can be expected in FY2021.

How did the other glove makers reward their head honchos? The heads of two smaller rubber glove firms — Careplus Group Bhd and Rubberex Corp (M) Bhd — saw a more than a 30% increase in total remuneration in FY2020. Careplus Group CEO Lim Kwee Shyan’s total pay was RM1.1 million (+30.7%), while Rubberex group MD Khoo Chin Leng took home RM1.38 million (+46.46%). Comfort Gloves Bhd MD Cheah Phoy Ken’s total pay was unchanged — it was in a range of RM1.15 million to RM1.45 million in FY2020 (Jan 31, 2020) and FY2019.

In the tech sector, where earnings performance was mixed, likewise their respective bosses’ pay in FY2020.

Frontken Corp Bhd chairman and CEO Wai Pin Ng had the highest pay of RM7.1 million, up 11.05% from RM6.4 million in FY2019, while Mi Technovation Bhd group CEO Oh Kuan Eng saw his total remuneration slashed nearly a third (-32.6%) to RM576,900, from RM856,000 in FY2019.

ViTrox Corp Bhd MD Chu Jenn Weng received a 17.4% increase in total remuneration to RM399,000 in FY2020, the lowest among his peers.

 

Genting Group’s Lim Kok Thay is highest paid CEO in 2020

Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay (pictured),  chief executive of Genting Malaysia Bhd (GenM) and its 49.5% parent Genting Bhd, is the highest paid CEO for 2020. He also took the top spot in 2019.

This was despite the fact that both companies were bleeding losses, mainly due to the temporary closure of leisure casinos worldwide to curb the Covid-19 outbreak, and the subsequent resumption of business with reduced capacity. It should be noted, however, that his total pay was lower than the year before.

At GenM, Lim took home RM38.51 million in total remuneration, down 19.94% from RM48.11 million in 2019. In terms of salary and bonus, he received RM30.14 million in 2020 versus RM38.5 million the year before.

Lim, who is also chairman of Genting, saw a 29.4% decline in total remuneration of RM35.8 million, from RM50.7 million. Salary and bonus-wise, he received RM29.89 million, 29.6% less than RM42.43 million a year earlier.

At Genting Plantation Bhd, where he is deputy chairman, Lim’s total remuneration was slashed by 31.7% to RM495,000 from RM725,000 in FY2019.

The next highest paid CEO for the year was Public Bank Bhd managing director and CEO Tan Sri Tay Ah Lek, who received RM38.09 million, a 6.89% increase from RM35.64 million previously. This was despite an 11.61% decline in the company’s net profit to RM4.87 billion, from RM5.51 billion in FY2019.

Among the 30 companies analysed for this story, seven, including GenM and Genting, paid more than RM10 million in total remuneration to their respective head honchos in 2020. Another seven paid between RM5 million and RM10 million, while 13 paid less than RM5 million. Three companies paid less than RM1 million.

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