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ACQUITTED EX-SIME BANK CEO ISMAIL ZAKARIA : ‘SHINING CZAR’ THEN …. JUST LIKE AHMAD JAUHARI, RASHDAN YUSOF, KAMARUDDIN MERANUN …. SHINING CZARS NOW?

Not many may recall Ismail Zakaria.

One couldn’t even easily get his photo online until Malaysian Business Times published it recently.

Ismail Zakaria’s name then (up to the late 1990s) was so highly thought of that he was actually touted for the position of CEO of Maybank, which he eventually lost to Ahmad Don.

Ismail Zakaria (or IZ as he is known), joined Sime Bank as CEO after a short stint with RHB Bank.

But what we read about now is IZ’s acquittal from court charges of acting beyond his authority in lending up to RM175m to companies back in the late 1990s when CEO of Sime Bank, a subsidiary of Sime Darby Berhad.

Sime Bank was previously UMBC Bhd (United Malaysian Banking Corporation Bhd).

It’s amazing that such a matter would take over a decade to be dealt with ….. and even that, at the level of the Session’s Court!

But I do recall of the amazement at the way monies were expended by a bank supposedly controlled by a world renown company with fantastic governance and checks & balances – SIME DARBY BERHAD.

It is equally amazing (and galling) that in a relatively short period thereafter, we could witness the same scenario in Sime Darby’s Oil & Gas Division …… losing close to RM3.0 billion resulting from slip-shod management practices.

Actually, my point in this posting is that Malaysia’s corporate mentality still seems to be very much that if one appoints a high profile individual as CEO to a company ……. it is bound for success.

The actual track record of that person appears to be secondary.

As long as he/she has had their profile raised, CV’s polished, references ‘corroborated’ …… they appear acceptable, so to speak.

That seems to be the case for IZ then ……. and we seem to see it even to this day?

Look at the short-list for the Managing Director’s post for MAS as reported.

They were Ahmad Jauhari, Rashdan Yusof, Kamaruddin Meranun and Shazali Ramli.

Just what exactly has each and every one of them actually achieved?

Ahmad Jauhari was a member of the Sikap Power team that got the mandate to build an IPP plant in Port Dickson.

Naturally, it would be built and financed by others and resulted in the project being flipped first to MRCB and then to Malakoff.

Those who originally got the mandate would make a ‘killing’ from the flipping!

Ahmad Jauhari, then spent a time as MD of Malakoff, whose control (vide MMC)  by then had moved from the government to UMNO financier Syed Mokhtar Al Bukhari.

As for Rashdan Yusof ….. besides being with an audit firm and then the Thinking Company (Bina Fikir), Rashdan was also a director and shareholder of listed company, Megan Media Berhad, which collapsed so calamitously around the same time as Transmile Berhad.

And what about Kamaruddin Meranun?

Before he got his break, thanks to Snake Charmer, Tony Fernandez, what did Kamaruddin Meranun actually achieve?

He did spend some time with the Innosabah Securities Bhd Group, a stock broking firm in Sabah with subsidiaries involved in related activities eg. options and futures.

Innosabah collapsed under the same exposure that Sime Bank had then!

As for Shazali Ramli, well, he’s an apparently good marketing man especially known for his oily rolled back hair!!

Therefore, there seems to be a serious dearth of good quality CEOs for the Malaysian corporate community!

Or is it that the post of MD for MAS was earmarked for a pliant, financially secure individual who would do the bidding of the puppeteers behind the scene?

Just like Ismail Zakaria?

Ex-Sime Darby Berhad CEO, Zubir Mursid, who is facing his own court charges, must be quite positive with IZ’s acquittal.

Click HERE for BTimes report on IZ’s acquittal.

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TONY FERNANDES BUYS QPR : A ‘SYMBOLIC CAPTURE’ TO SIGNAL HIS LOSS OF CONTROL OF AIR ASIA?

 

The former head of scandal hit Satyam, Ramalinga Raju, was quoted, after his arrest for the shambolic farce relating to his company’s cooked up books including US$1.0 billion that was non-existent, as follows:

“IT’S LIKE RIDING ON A TIGER, NOT KNOWING HOW TO GET OFF WITHOUT BEING EATEN”.

It does make one wonder if Air Asia’s Tony Fernandes is facing the same predicament!

This entrepreneur, who took over an ailing airline from a croney Malaysian public listed company for only RM1.00 and then grabbed a huge portion of the Malaysian market previously monopolized by Malaysia Airlines ……. by running it more efficiently than the government airline, has now grown the airline by leaps and bounds.

He then made Air Asia’s financials look better than normal by applying purportedly acceptable practices like recognising profits before they have been earned!!

With such super figures, he listed Air Asia in the mid 2000 and is currently valued at RM10.5 billion!

Not bad for an initial investment of RM1.00!

This is when investors must take heed of the ominous signs that are currently taking place with respect to Air Asia.

He is on a roller coaster (of a tiger) ….. in an industry that is becoming impossibly competitive …. and is running out of good news!

This is when he indulges in promotional acts and statements to prop up the share price of Air Asia.

An example is a few days after having announced the acquisition of 200 planes, he makes another announcement of his intention to acquire another 100 planes!

Don’t these costly acquisitions require detailed study ….. unless it is just for show?

Of course, my critics will retort that I’m just being a sour puss …… how can a single man singularly raise Air Asia’s share price from 80 sen to RM3.95!

 

Ah, this is where the recently announced ‘collaboration’ between the government owned Malaysia Airlines and Tony’s Air Asia comes into play.

MAS is as good as a goner due to it being a political entity where besides having been a cash cow for UMNO cronies in the past (read: Tajuddin Ramli), laying off its largely dead woods amongst its 20,000 employees ….. is politically non-acceptable.

Therefore, whatever that needs to be done has to be done subtly and it will be in the form of Air Asia.

This leads me to the conclusion that Air Asia is not singularly controlled by Tony Fernandes nor Tune Air!

Why?

Air Asia’s phenomenal rise in share price is due to the accumulation and support of its shares by government agencies like EPF, Value Cap and Tabung Haji as reported in the press.

This is indeed an exit exercise for Tony Fernandes …… in order for him to indulge in other vices ….. like buying a football club like Queens Park Rangers!!



THE ‘SECOND COMING’ OF ……….. THE CRONIES OF YESTER-YEARS?

It looks as though the good ol’times of the yester-years may be here again!

Well, I think that is the hope of the establishment.

After all, Khazanah has not been really been seen to have been able to bring the companies under their stable to a higher level as promised by its Managing Director, Azman Mokhtar.

This has caused further embarrassment by the sickening irregularities in Sime Darby. And don’t tell me that Sime Darby does not come under the Khazanah umbrella. Most people know where the common links are.

The irregularities at Tabung Haji is another further embarrassment to the government. Imagine, a fund for the welfare of the Muslims in the country being ‘mismanaged’ to the point of being ‘sinful’ …. choked for words! click HERE

It is therefore no wonder that the stars of the yester-years ….. also termed by current Defence Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, as cronies of Mahathir (and Tun Daim Zainuddin) …. seem to be making a come-back. 

These kind of things do not happen without the blessings of the powers that be!

Well, there is the Halim Saad attempt to takeover QSR ….. more precisely, KFC which is the jewel in the QSR stable of companies.

Then there is Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir, brother of ex Minister Kadir Sheikh Fadzir,  ex UMNO Youth leader and owner of listed companies in the past, now making a go for Satang.

Another example is Time dotCom which is effectively being given away (forced to?) by Khazanah to an individual backed up by another ‘crony’, Wan Azmi Wan Hamzah, another Tun Daim prodigy.

There are therefore signs of impatience on the part of the establishment ….. especially when the country seems to be lagging behind its contemporaries in the region.

Should we be surprised by this development?

Not really.

But if the fundamentals are not worked on …… and instead quick but unsustainable fix-its approaches by the private sector still being accepted as the modus operandi, the ‘Malaysian Way’ will continue for the foreseeable future.

It is precisely for that reason that concerns will arise as to whether this will be addressed by these ‘messiahs’ from their ‘Second Coming’!

This is further accentuated if they turn a blind eye  to major gaps and instead become reliant on un-objective surveys, programmes, rulings and awards as justifications for status quo …… something that they were so good at doing during the ‘yester-years’!

Well then, let the good times roll!



WHEN GODFATHER IS UNDER SIEGE – ‘SEEK COVER’ SOMEWHERE ELSE!!

When I read recently about the examiner’s report on events culminating in the demise of Lehman Brothers, it did not really surprise me to hear about the corporate and accounting sleight of hands to ‘cover up’ the true financial position of the organisation.

Cynically, it is like someone whose occupation is to advise clients how to fudge their books and who is now actually doing it himself in order to artificially justify his existence!

This is the concern about the role of consultants the world over. Do they actually provide value add propositions or are they just glorified goons who provide a way for their clients to justify taking certain self interested decisions ….. supported and justified by these so-called consultants?

It is a well known fact that since Boards of Directors are loath to make decisions on their own ….. they use high-flying consultants to justify the decisions of the directors.

And if these consultants are to be paid on the basis of getting approval for the deals, how can they not work towards it? 

Yes, there are independent advisers appointed for most of these deals …… but who appoints them? It’s the ‘self interested’ company directors themselves.

This reminds me of a local Malaysian deal involving an investment bank that took place a few years’ ago but is now being re-examined by the hind-sight analysts!

The local bank was apparently ‘encouraged strenuously’ to employ a particular individual as its CEO. However, he was already heading a boutique consultancy which he also owned.

So a deal was cut for the local bank to wholly acquire the boutique consultancy from him for a tidy sum after which he would join the local bank as its CEO!

Now the question is what is in it for the local bank to buy the boutique consultancy? Why was there a premium paid over and above its apparent net value? After all, the aim was to recruit the individual. 

To insinuate that the boutique consultancy had a valuable brand, a ‘fantastic’ track record and could provide keen competition to the local bank is at best ……. laughable!

Whilst trying to give as much of the benefit of the doubt to the deal, let us accept at face value that the final consideration for the boutique consultancy will be based on what is actually collected from the consultancy’s debtors, which was estimated at RM8.0 million.

The final audited sum was RM5.24 million.

However, the amount paid to the CONSULTANT was RM5.99 million. Why was he paid a premium of RM0.75 million?

Justifying the premium paid by saying that post acquisition profits of RM0.93 million was achieved by the boutique consultancy is mischievous as it had already been subsumed by the local bank.

It was riding on the name of the local bank ….. otherwise the local bank would have undertaken a name change into that of the boutique consultancy!!

Hello, the local bank was doing him a favour (as a result of the ‘strenuous encouragement’) to acquire the boutique consultancy at net earning value and yet had to sucker out an additional RM0.75 million!!

With these kind of kinky deals taking place, it may be an idea to appoint independent advisers whose fees are to be paid only on condition that they can justify AGAINST the terms of the deal being proposed to  the company. As a result, the KPI of the independent adviser is clear and will not be inhibited in any way.

In addition, the independent adviser might even be ‘encouraged’ to uncover skeletons in the cup-board of interested parties such that a steep DISCOUNT (rather than premium) be paid for many of today’s deals or have the deals scuppered altogether!

UPDATE: Yes, I have been reminded that the CEO has since decided to resign from the local bank to go for better things (or possibly cover)! What kind of deal is this?

The local bank bought the boutique consultancy to enable the owner to join the former as CEO. And when the buy-over is legally completed, the CEO resigns! This is preposterous!!

Legally and morally, the premium of RM0.75 million should be refunded to the local bank.