Temasek Holdings CEO Quits

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Ho Ching will step down as the chief executive of Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings, as it faces a difficult time after a turmoil in global markets slashed the value of its investments.

Chip Goodyear, the former CEO of BHP Billiton, will replace Ho, wife of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, on October 1. The move will help Temasek to build a more global image from a fund viewed in some quarters as an agent of the Singapore government.

Temasek, which had assets worth S$185 billion ($123 billion) as of March 2008, is nursing losses from its high profile investments in Merrill Lynch and Barclays (BARC.L) as it aggressively expanded outside its core Asian market.

“These are turbulent times and I’m sure she must have had a stressful time this year,” said David Cohen, economist at Action Economics in Singapore.

Temasek’s $5 billion plus investment in Merrill alone has resulted in a loss of more than $2 billion.

The state investor controls some of the most high profile Singaporean companies including Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI) and Singapore Telecommunications (STEL.SI), and has stakes in global firms such as Standard Chartered (STAN.L).

Temasek Chairman S. Dhanabalan said 55-year-old Ho’s decision to step down was not linked to performance and it was too early to determine if investments made in the last two years will lose out in the long-term.

“The team has already embarked on a different stance since mid-2007, and has begun to review its long-term plans under different scenarios prompted by the economic downturn,” Dhanabalan said at a media briefing.

“If we are to bring in new leadership, it would be just as good a time as any to involve a new leader in this review.”

Ho is stepping down after a five-year stint as the CEO.

Goodyear, 51, left BHP Billiton in early 2008. He joined Temasek’s board on Sunday.

“Goodyear understands the financial crisis and having an expertise within metals and mining is very good for the future because that is where all the investors will be,” Christoffer Moltke-Leth, head of sales trading at SAXO Capital Markets in Singapore.

Asked whether he had the necessary experience to lead Temasek, Goodyear told a news conference he started his career as an investment banker at Kidder Peabody where he advised corporations on mergers and acquisitions and financing.

“In the resources business, our payoff times are decades,” he said.

Ho Ching, who will also resign from the Temasek board, joined Temasek as a director in January 2002 and has been CEO since January 2004.

($1=1.504 Singapore Dollar)

By Kevin Lim and Saeed Azhar
(Additional reporting by Singapore bureau, Editing by Anshuman Daga)