More foreigners may join Temasek's board: Dhanabalan

Mr S Dhanabalan, outgoing Temasek Holdings chairman

SINGAPORE - Temasek Holdings, which is taking on a new chairman in former labour union chief Lim Boon Heng, may see more changes with future board directors boasting a more global profile.

On Monday, outgoing chairman S. Dhanabalan spoke of plans to add more non-Singaporeans to the Temasek board.

Aside from himself, Mr Lim and chief executive Ho Ching, the board has seven other members, all are well-established industry figures. Of these, only Swedish banker Marcus Wallenberg is not Singaporean.

Mr Dhanabalan said as Temasek and its stable of Singapore-based firms have grown more global, their boards have had to change to reflect that.

On average, about a quarter of the board members of all these companies are non-Singaporean, he added.

"All of our companies are now global companies, whether it's SingTel or SIA (Singapore Airlines)," he said, adding they need successful businessmen who know different markets.

These people "can form the pool from which we draw directors for Temasek as well as for Temasek companies", he said.

Observers agree with this direction. Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) chairman and former Temasek deputy chairman Kwa Chong Seng noted the Temasek board's strength and the move towards global talent.

"(Mr Dhana) was instrumental in bringing on strong international talent both for the board and management," he said.

Corporate governance expert Mak Yuen Teen of the National University of Singapore, said "it makes a lot of sense to include international directors to give that perspective on key markets and industries" as Temasek has evolved from being an investor in Singapore companies to one that invests internationally.

The longest-serving director on Temasek, after Mr Dhanabalan steps down, will be Mr Kua Hong Pak, managing director and group chief executive of ComfortDelGro Corp, who has been on the board since 1996.

The others are also high-fliers. Mr Cheng Wai Keung heads property and retail firm Wing Tai Holdings and spent a decade as NOL chairman. Mr Goh Yew Lin is a stockbroking veteran.

Mr Michael Lien is a corporate financier who is the grandson of Overseas Union Bank founder Lien Ying Chow, while Mr Teo Ming Kian is a former Finance Ministry permanent secretary and Mr Lucien Wong, a top corporate lawyer.


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