Temasek: No CEO Deadline, Seeking Local

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore state investor Temasek has not set a deadline to replace CEO Ho Ching despite her designated successor’s surprise departure last month, the city-state’s finance minister said on Tuesday.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam said Temasek’s next chief should “ideally” be a Singaporean, but added the government would leave the decision to Temasek’s board.

“There’s no push factor for the current CEO to step down,” Tharman said in response to questions in Parliament.

“The government does not directly manage the process of CEO succession. To do so would make the appointment of the CEO a political decision, which it must never be.”

Former BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) (BLT.L) CEO Charles “Chip” Goodyear was named as Temasek’s CEO-designate earlier this year as part of a regular succession planning system and not because there was an urgent need to find a new chief, Tharman said.

Temasek, whose sole shareholder is the finance ministry, said last month that Goodyear would not take over as CEO in October as planned due to differences over strategy.

Tharman declined to comment on those differences, but said Goodyear had not received any severance or goodwill payments as a result of his premature departure.

Goodyear, who would have been the investment agency’s first foreign CEO, was widely expected to trim Temasek’s financial holdings and shift focus into commodities and energy, analysts had said.

“Temasek’s leadership remains strong, at both the CEO and board level. They have enabled Temasek to sustain its generally superior overall investment performance over the years, including over the last cycle in global markets that began in 2003,” Tharman said.

He said it was important, though, that Temasek’s board remain in the control of a Singaporean majority.

Ho, the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said last month that Temasek lost more than S$40 billion ($27.6 billion) in its financial year to end-March — indicating its portfolio had shrunk by more than a fifth over the year. She did not give the exact value of Temasek’s assets.

Temasek is one of the world’s biggest sovereign wealth funds although its portfolio is smaller than that managed by the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC), which most analysts say has over $200 billion.

GIC does not publicly disclose the value of its assets.

Temasek is expected to release its annual report next month, giving the audited value of its portfolio and its investment returns.

By Kevin Lim and Nopporn Wong-Anan
(Editing by Ian Geoghegan)