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Finance

Ho Ching to retire as CEO of Singapore investment giant Temasek

Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara promoted internally to top role

Temasek Holdings announced that Chief Executive Ho Ching (right) will retire and Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegaraon (left) will take over the post. (Source photos by Reuters) 

SINGAPORE -- Ho Ching is to step down as CEO of Temasek Holdings, after 16 years in which the Singapore-owned investment company tripled its assets and became one of Asia's most influential state investors.

Ho, the wife of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, will hand over to Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, CEO of subsidiary Temasek International, from Oct.1, the board of Temasek announced on Tuesday.

Dilhan will continue as CEO of Temasek International, which was created a decade ago as the commercial arm of Temasek to drive its investing activities. That left the CEO of Temasek Holdings to focus on stewardship of its reserves.

"Leadership succession is a strategic responsibility of the Board," said Lim Boon Heng, chairman of Temasek Holdings, in an announcement. "Ho Ching has been very much part of this process. Indeed, she has been very active, working over the years to identify various potential successors both inside and outside of Temasek," he added.

The investment company had in the past grappled with the issue of who would take over Ho's role. In 2009, American businessman Charles "Chip" Goodyear pulled out as CEO-designate a few months after being seemingly picked for the top job.

Differences over strategy between Goodyear, who was former chief of resources conglomerate BHP, and Ho, were cited for the departure. Goodyear would have been the first non-Singaporean to take on the post at Temasek.

According to Temasek, its portfolio stood at 90 billion Singapore dollars ($67.7 billion), mostly in Singapore, when Ho Ching was appointed CEO in 2004 and has since risen to over SG$300 billion, notwithstanding the impact of the global financial crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.

The state investor has stakes in companies across a myriad of sectors internationally, from flag carrier Singapore Airlines, to Southeast Asia unicorn and super app provider Grab and China e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding.

The leadership change comes as Temasek reported its lowest annual return since 2016 for the year ended March 31, 2020 at minus 2.28% -- down from 1.49% in 2019. Net portfolio value for the period declined about 2% to S$306 billion.

Ho, who will be 67 years old this year, holds a master's degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University and started her career in 1976 with the Defence Engineering Service at the Singapore Ministry of Defence.

She joined Singapore Technologies group as director of engineering in 1988, before becoming its President and CEO from 1997 to 2001 prior to her move to Temasek.

Dilhan, who will be 57 this year, joined the state-owned investor in 2010 and has held various roles including head of the company's investment, portfolio management, and enterprise development groups.

He was previously managing partner at Wong-Partnership LLP, one of the largest law companies in Singapore and practiced law for over 20 years in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and general corporate law.

"He has played several critical roles in Temasek, including a two-year stint as head, Americas, based out of New York," said Lim, the investment company's chairman.

"As CEO of Temasek Holdings, Dilhan will have the responsibility for the stewardship role of Temasek, particularly in respect of Temasek's constitutional responsibilities to safeguard its own past reserves," Lim said.

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