Newsbreak: Changing of the guard at IJM Corp

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on July 15, 2019 - July 21, 2019.
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IJM Corp Bhd CEO and managing director Datuk Soam Heng Choon, who has been at the helm of the construction and property development giant for four years, has decided to retire. Sources say his replacement is Liew Hau Seng, the current managing director of IJM Construction Sdn Bhd.

It is learnt that IJM Corp chairman Tan Sri Abdul Halim Ali, 75, is also stepping down, with deputy non-executive chairman Tan Sri Krishnan Tan — a familiar name in the group — taking over his role.

“The contracts for Datuk Soam and Tan Sri Halim are expiring soon and both are close to or past retirement age. This transition has been discussed internally and it is an amicable exit,” says a source.

Under Soam’s leadership, IJM Corp saw its outstanding construction order book reach a record RM9.41 billion in its financial year ended Dec 31, 2018.

The outstanding order book for FY2018 comprised road projects (41%), other infrastructure (30%) and buildings (29%).

The group also secured the largest road build-operate-transfer concession in India to date — the Solapur-Bijapur road project worth RM1.5 billion — and ventured into the real estate investment business by developing Menara Prudential, a 27-storey office building in Tun Razak Exchange, Kuala Lumpur.

Since IJM Corp’s listing on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia in 1986, the group has weathered a number of economic crises and has seen its market capitalisation grow from RM66 million then to over RM8.7 billion today.

The stock has been on a downward trend in recent years, given the tougher operating landscape.

And just last week, the company announced that it will seek “appropriate legal redress” after being terminated as the works package contractor for the underground package of the RM1.12 billion light rail transit line 3 project.

IJM Construction, the group’s wholly-owned subsidiary, received the notice of termination on July 8 from the project’s turnkey contractor, MRCB George Kent Sdn Bhd.

The new CEO and chairman at IJM Corp will have their hands full given the challenging operating landscape companies are facing today.

The upside is that Tan is no stranger to the top post at IJM Corp. He had a long tenure of 14 years as the group’s managing director from January 1997 to December 2010, after which he was re-designated as executive deputy chairman.

In 2014, Tan was re-designated as deputy non-executive chairman, a position he holds to today.

Meanwhile, Liew is also a seasoned hand in the construction industry. He has been with the IJM group for three decades, having started his career there in 1989 as an engineer at GR Concrete Sdn Bhd.

The engineering graduate had held various other positions, including senior engineer (from 1995 to 2002), senior project manager (from 2003 to 2005), project director (from 2006 to 2009) and operations director (from 2010 to 2011).

Liew was appointed head of the construction division on June 7, 2013, and took on the role of managing director of IJM Construction in April 2015.

 

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