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S P Setia dismisses talk of leadership uncertainties

KUALA LUMPUR: S P Setia Bhd dismissed talk that the property developer’s uncertainty over its permanent leadership plans will lead to a loss in investor confidence and its competitiveness.

“We have built S P Setia over the years and turned it into a well-run company. We have policies, programmes, procedures and processes to ensure our competitiveness. That is a process no one can take away, no matter who is coming in,” its outgoing acting chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Voon Tin Yow told a news conference to announce its financial results for the financial year ended Oct 31, 2014 (FY14) yesterday.

Voon, who will be resigning from the group on Jan 1, 2015, said S P Setia has an existing and capable management team led by acting deputy president Datuk Khor Chap Jen, who will continue to lead S P Setia after Voon’s departure.

“They know the company inside out and they have been part of the S P Setia team for years. So, there is no difference between those in the top leadership because any one of them can be a CEO,” said Voon.

Khor, who will assume Voon’s position in January, said anxiety over the group’s top leadership is merely based on investors’ perception, and promised “systems are in place” to ensure the smooth running of its operations.

When asked if he has any plans to leave S P Setia, he said: “There is no reason for me to leave.”

It is worthwhile to note that both Voon and Khor have been selected on an “acting” basis and S P Setia has not seen a permanent leader since the departure of Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin.

One of the reasons cited for this is that S P Setia’s 53.13% shareholder, Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB), did not endorse the appointments of Voon and Khor.

When asked if this was the case, Voon said: “If it is, then the [job] titles would have changed.”

He was, however, quick to point out that it would “not be fair” for him to speak or comment on PNB’s plans or intentions for the group’s top leadership position.

S P Setia saw its former long-time CEO Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin resigning in April this year, followed by his trusted deputy, Datuk Teow Leong Seng, who left his position as chief financial officer in July. Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, S P Setia’s non-executive director, has also resigned.

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Days after Liew left S P Setia, he was appointed as the non-independent and non-executive director of Eco World Development Group Bhd, where his son Liew Tian Xiong is a director and substantial shareholder.

Nevertheless, Liew continues to play a significant role in two of S P Setia’s property development projects. He still represents S P Setia as the chairman of Battersea Project Holding Co Ltd and the managing director of Qinzhou Development (Malaysia) Consortium Sdn Bhd, and is expected to do so until September 2015.

Voon was appointed acting CEO to fill Liew’s shoes, but tendered his resignation in September, months before his term was due to end. Khor will take over the helm of S P Setia on Jan 1, 2015.

On talk that the property developer will merge with other entities under the umbrella of PNB to create a mega property developer, Voon said: “It is [pure] speculation. Let it be speculation. We are not aware of any [merger] plans.”

 

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on December 17, 2014.

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