Newsmakers 2020: Corporate musical chairs

TheEdge Thu, Jan 14, 2021 01:00pm - 1 month ago

THE changing political landscape made its mark on Corporate Malaysia as movements at the senior level within government-linked bodies and companies continued when the Perikatan Nasional took over Putrajaya early this year. The change of government also saw the comeback of some who had been sidelined earlier.

Jalil Rasheed

Former president/group CEO

Permodalan Nasional Bhd

Jalil left government-linked investment company Permodalan Nasional Bhd in mid-June after just eight months as CEO. He left both abruptly and under a cloud, mainly for passing himself off as a graduate of the prestigious London School of Economics, when what he did was an external programme offered by the University of London. The contention was that, with his being less than accurate about his degree, could he be trusted to handle PNB’s RM300 billion worth of assets?

At 39, Jalil had the distinction of being the youngest CEO of PNB. He has also had the shortest tenure of any CEO of a fund management company so far. Prior to his stint at PNB, he was with Aberdeen Standard Islamic Investments (M) Sdn Bhd, Kim Eng Securities in Singapore, as well as HSBC James Capel and BNP Paribas in London.

Nevertheless, Jalil has his fair share of sympathisers. On social media platforms, Jalil said he had received abusive phone calls from unknown persons, and that his LinkedIn profile and non-PNB email accounts had been hacked. He had also been harassed and was worried about his family’s safety. This raised questions about the manner of his departure, gaining him much sympathy.

In one of his online posts, Jalil said, “Oftentimes, making the right decisions is riddled with difficulties and some will be unpopular” and “there was a line I would not cross”, indicating there were issues at PNB and its investments. Market talk in the middle of this year was that, as PNB’s representative and chairman of Sapura Energy Bhd, Jalil had gone against the latter’s board and CEO Tan Sri Shahril Shamsuddin, a long-time oil and gas veteran.

Since leaving PNB and Sapura Energy, Jalil has been off the corporate radar screen and linked to Parti Muda, along with former youth and sports minister and member of parliament for Muar Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman. Whether Jalil will return to Corporate Malaysia next year remains to be seen. — By Jose Barrock

Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn

President/group CEO

Permodalan Nasional Bhd

Ahmad Zulqarnain took the helm at Permodalan Nasional Bhd in early July after the departure of Jalil Rasheed. He joined at a time when there was much scrutiny and questions were being asked about the fund’s investments.

At PNB, Ahmad Zulqarnain seemed like a perfect fit, having joined the group after holding the position of joint deputy managing director at sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd, where he was in charge of strategic holdings in government-linked companies, among others. Other than having been the No 2 at Khazanah, he seems to have the right credentials and experience to head PNB.

Prior to joining Khazanah in May 2014, Ahmad Zulqarnain had a five-year stint as inaugural CEO of Danajamin Nasional Bhd — a government-owned financial guarantee insurer set up to help stimulate bond and sukuk issuers. Before Danajamin, he served as chief corporate strategist at Affin Bank Bhd, had a two-year tenure at Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Bhd, worked with banking group CIMB Group Holdings Bhd and the Corporate Debt Restructuring Committee, and was an equity analyst at UBS Warburg.

He was also a director at Symphony House Bhd and executive director responsible for corporate finance and strategic planning at developer Bolton Bhd.

Ahmad Zulqarnain is likely to have his hands full at PNB, considering many of its key assets have been badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent economic slump. About 60% of PNB’s RM300 billion worth of assets is invested in Bursa Malaysia. Its largest shareholdings include banking giant Malayan Banking Bhd, diversified group Sime Darby Bhd, property developer S P Setia Bhd, auto outfit UMW Holdings Bhd, oil and gas companies Velesto Energy Bhd and Sapura Energy Bhd, and reinsurance company MNRB Holdings Bhd.

How will he steer PNB through these challenging times and what strategies will he employ to ensure the GLIC can sustain its yearly dividend payments? — By Jose Barrock


Nik Amlizan Mohamed


Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan)

Former Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) chief executive Nik Amlizan, 51, was tasked in 2019 with moving the organisation beyond the financial mismanagement and irregularities that it had been embroiled in. In October 201, she took over the reins from Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin, who had stepped down in the wake of the scandal.

Nik Amlizan is the first woman to helm the armed forces pension fund. She moved quickly to get LTAT back on track, putting in place a five-year strategic plan, along with Haniz Nazlan, who had joined the organisation in August 2019 in the newly created role of chief investment officer (CIO). Haniz told The Edge in a June interview that LTAT had lined up more than 30 investment-related initiatives for 2020 alone, which involved establishing the right framework and detailed investment plans, as well as enhancing existing policies and processes to guide the long-term transformation journey towards becoming a world-class pension fund.

At the core of the turnaround plan was a strategic asset allocation framework, which set the long-term direction towards better diversification of the portfolio. The framework was expected to be completed by year-end.

It is clear, however, that Nik Amlizan will not be able to see through the strategic plan, which will take a few years to implement. On Nov 2, she was appointed the new CEO of Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan) (KWAP) — the country’s second-largest pension fund, with a total fund size of RM125 billion — taking over from Datuk Wan Kamaruzaman Wan Ahmad, who had helmed the organisation since May 2013. Nik Amlizan is no stranger to KWAP, though. She was its CIO and had served the organisation for 11 years prior to joining LTAT.

LTAT, which still lacks a CEO, declared a dividend of 2.5% on the back of a lower net profit of RM91.7 million for FY2019, compared with a 2% dividend on net profit of RM221 million for FY2018. It remains to be seen whether it will return to the good old days of declaring annual dividends of 6% to 8%. — By Kang Siew Li

Datuk Seri Mohammed Shazalli Ramly

Managing director

Boustead Holdings Bhd

Shazalli succeeded Datuk Seri Amrin Awaluddin on Dec 1 with a mandate to steer Boustead Holdings Bhd towards high performance and sustainability by 2023 under a three-year transformation plan unveiled in July.

Touted as a “turnaround specialist”, Shazalli brings more than 30 years of experience in several industries: telecommunications, media and broadcasting and consumer marketing. He most recently served as managing director and CEO of Telekom Malaysia Bhd, but is best known for running Celcom Axiata Bhd from 2005 to 2016, during which the mobile telecommunications firm achieved 31 consecutive quarters of double-digit revenue and net profit growth.

Shazalli takes over Boustead at a time when the diversified conglomerate had been loss-making for the last two years and failed to declare a dividend for the financial year ended Dec 31, 2019 — the first time since 2000. The stock had also lost 33% of its value year to date, giving the company a market capitalisation of RM1.32 billion as at Dec 16.

The potential privatisation of Boustead by its main shareholder Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) also hangs over the group. The clock is ticking down to the Feb 2, 2021, deadline for the armed forces pension fund to decide whether to take the company private. The proposal was mooted in May during the tenure of former LTAT chief executive Nik Amlizan Mohamed, who has since rejoined KWAP as its CEO.

Thus, all eyes are now on Shazalli to see how he will chart a new path for Boustead. One thing for certain is that he has a slew of low-hanging fruit to pick, given that the group has more than 90 subsidiaries, associate companies and joint ventures. But its diverse portfolio also makes investing in the conglomerate difficult.

There are four listed companies in its stable of investments, three of which are its subsidiaries — Boustead Heavy Industries Corp Bhd (65%), Boustead Plantations Bhd (57.42%) and Pharmaniaga Bhd (55.93%). It also holds a 20.76% stake in Affin Bank Bhd. — By Kang Siew Li

Datuk Seri Amrin Awaluddin

Former managing director/CEO

Boustead Holdings Bhd

Amrin stepped down as managing director and CEO of Boustead Holdings Bhd on Nov 15, amid talk that he was leaving the diversified conglomerate to head Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT).

Amrin joined Boustead in May 2019, filling the seat left by Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin, who had resigned from the company and its related subsidiaries in December 2018 after 27 years at the helm. By then, the group was already incurring losses. Its net loss had widened to RM1.28 billion in the financial year ended Dec 31, 2019 (FY2019) from RM535 million in FY2018, weighed down by its heavy industries and plantation divisions.

Amrin brought with him 30 years of experience in the corporate arena, including as CEO of Media Prima Bhd and Sime Darby Property Bhd. During his tenure, Boustead unveiled its transformation plan to drive the group forward for the next three years. Dubbed “EDGE 20”, the plan comprises 20 initiatives to achieve the group’s aspirations of becoming a high-performing and sustainable organisation by 2023, focused on funding, structural, operational and corporate governance areas.

The latest market talk indicates that Amrin may be heading to UEM Sunrise Bhd to become its managing director and CEO. If he does go to UEM Sunrise, it will come at a time when Eco World Development Group Bhd (EcoWorld) is considering a proposal by Khazanah Nasional Bhd’s wholly-owned subsidiary UEM Group Bhd to merge with its loss-making property unit UEM Sunrise via a share and warrant swap.

UEM Sunrise and EcoWorld have to decide by Jan 2 whether to proceed with discussions on the proposed merger. The merger would create one of the country’s largest property developers, with a projected gross development value of RM173.2 billion and a total land bank of more than 6,880ha locally.

At the time of writing, no decision had been made as to who would take over the top job at LTAT and UEM Sunrise. — By Kang Siew LI

Mohd Rani Hisham Samsudin


Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd

Mohd Rani Hisham stepped down as CEO of state-owned Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) in September last year, following the expiry of his two-year contract. At the time, the issue over contractor Dhaya Maju LTAT Sdn Bhd continuing with the Klang Valley Double Tracking Phase 2 (KVDT2) rehabilitation project was hanging over the national railway company.

More than a year later, Mohd Rani Hisham was reappointed to his old post at KTMB, effective Dec 1, with the KVDT2 project yet again embroiled in controversy. During his absence, he had been CEO of Kontena Nasional Bhd since October 2019.

According to MMC Corp Bhd’s website, Mohd Rani Hisham has more than 23 years’ experience in transport and logistics. A graduate of Northrop University in the US, he was previously group CEO of Pos Aviation Services Sdn Bhd (formerly known as KL Airport Services Sdn Bhd) under DRB-Hicom Bhd. He was also CEO of KN Sime Logistics Sdn Bhd.

But the bigger task remains that of turning around the loss-making KTMB, which had been technically insolvent even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) data shows that its liabilities exceeded its assets by RM1.24 billion in the financial year ended Dec 31, 2018 (FY2018).

Nevertheless, KTMB’s net loss had narrowed to RM8.25 million in FY2018 from RM23.59 million in FY2017. This was on the back of a 3.4% year-on-year dip in revenue to RM603.77 million. The company had not filed its FY2019 financial statements with SSM at the time of writing.

Still, putting the company back on track would be an uphill task, given that it has experienced a drop in passenger volume as a result of the partial lockdowns amid the pandemic. Can Mohd Rani Hisham turn things around this time? — By Kang Siew Li

Raja Azmi Raja Nazuddin

Chief operating officer

Malaysian Aviation Commission

The departure of Raja Azmi as group CEO of Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd in January came as a surprise. Prior to that, he was the group chief financial officer.

The move generated much speculation, as his resignation came two years short of his three-year contract, so much so that then transport minister Anthony Loke had to come out to say the government had not pressured Raja Azmi to resign. His departure also followed one of the worst technical glitches the airport operator had ever experienced, which left thousands of passengers stranded because of flight delays in August 2019.

Nevertheless, the aviation industry saw the return of Raja Azmi eight months later when he was appointed chief operating officer of Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom). This is the second COO appointment since the commission was established in March 2016, with Azmir Zain having left in August to pursue other interests.

Since its inception, the economic and commercial regulator for the civil aviation industry had pushed for changes based on upholding passenger rights, including more pricing transparency and a higher quality of service at airports. It had also aimed to promote a fair playing field for airlines operating out of the main Kuala Lumpur International Airport terminal and klia2 by equalising passenger service charges (PSCs).

This became a major bone of contention between Mavcom and AirAsia Group Bhd, as the latter believes the inferior facilities and services at klia2, out of which the low-cost carrier operates, do not justify PSCs that are equal to the main terminal. The Covid-19 pandemic brought plans to a halt, however, as well as a delay in the implementation of the regulatory asset base framework.

Another question is whether Mavcom will be disbanded, following the change in government in March. In December 2019, the transport ministry announced that the commission would be disbanded and its functions absorbed into the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia.

Until then, the future of Mavcom hangs in the balance, pending the repeal of the Malaysian Aviation Commission Act 2015 [Act 771]. — By Kang Siew Li


Datuk Noor Kamarul Anuar Nuruddin

Former group CEO/managing director

Telekom Malaysia Bhd

When Noor Kamarul was appointed Telekom Malaysia Bhd’s (TM) group CEO and managing director in June 2019, he was considered an outsider, as he had spent most of his senior career with Celcom Axiata Bhd.

His appointment came as a surprise, as an internal candidate at TM had been touted as the front-runner for the position.

But who is Noor Kamarul and how did he secure the position at TM? Trained in communications engineering at the University of Plymouth in the UK, he went on to garner 35 years’ experience in the telecommunications industry.

Noor Kamarul started his career at TM in 1983 as assistant controller of telecommunications and held various positions until 1991. As the mobile telecommunications industry in Malaysia started to take off in the early 1990s, he joined Cellular Communications Network (M) Sdn Bhd in 1992 as a senior manager of planning.

In 2003, Noor Kamarul joined Celcom and held various senior positions over the years. Prior to his resignation in March 2018, he was the chief special projects officer.

The appointment of Noor Kamarul was not accepted by many of the top managers at TM at the time, as he was considered an outsider, according to sources close to the company’s top management.

His appointment was also said to be due to TM chairman Rosli Man, who had refused to proceed with the appointment of Imri Mokhtar. Sources say Rosli favoured Noor Kamarul because he knows what he is capable of, having worked together at Celcom.

During his one-year stint at TM, Noor Kamarul strengthened its position in the mobile telecoms industry, with the group aspiring to be the National Telecommunications Infrastructure Provider (NTIP) for 5G. The rationale that TM had given was simple: The deployment of network infrastructure requires billions of ringgit in investments, and telcos cannot wait too long to recoup their investments, resulting in underinvestment in network development.

With Noor Kamarul no longer at the group, will its aspiration to be the NTIP for 5G be taken up by his successor? — By Kamarul Azhar

Imri Mokhtar

Group CEO/managing director

Telekom Malaysia Bhd

Imri Mokhtar started his career at Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) in 1996. In 2005, he left for a global consulting firm and then a pay-TV operator before rejoining the national telco. He held several positions at TM, including executive vice-president of Unifi and chief operating officer (COO).

Imri graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering from University College London. He later completed business and leadership programmes at Cambridge Judge Business School and Harvard Business School.

Imri first emerged in the media towards end-2018, when he was seen as the favourite candidate for the group CEO position at TM, following the departure of Datuk Seri Mohammed Shazalli Ramly. As then chief financial officer and acting CEO Datuk Bazlan Osman had resigned in November 2018, Imri’s path to the CEO’s office seemed to be clear. Unfortunately, the TM board bypassed him and appointed Datuk Noor Kamarul Anuar Nuruddin as group CEO in June 2019.

In January this year, Imri resigned as COO of TM. He did not stay away for long, however, as Noor Kamarul resigned in July. It is said that he had been pressured by the powers that be to step down.

Imri was brought back to helm TM just one year after he was sidelined by the board. How long will he last as CEO? — By Kamarul Azhar

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