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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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‘SALUTARY CONGRATULATIONS’ TO TEH HONG PIOW : FOR NOT ONLY SUSTAINING BUT EXPANDING A BANK OVER 45 YEARS …. WHILST OTHERS HAVE FALLEN BY WAY-SIDE?

There were many snide remarks against the recent party held for the head honcho of Public Bank, Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow!

By the way he was feted, he should be made a ‘Tun’ above all those current ‘Tuns’ who are perceived to have caused mayhem to the Malaysian society.

One of the critics was Khairy Jamaluddin who apparently tweeted that the event likened Tan Sri Teh to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il.

Well, at least Tan Sri Teh accumulated his riches through a legitimate business that has grown leaps and bounds …… as compared to others who accumulated just as much riches (over a relatively shorter period) by leeching on to a politically powerful individual then ….. by marrying his daughter!

Hey, give the man a break.

Like many, he had to cultivate his network of associates and friends.

But unlike many, over a period of 45 years he has managed to sustain and expand a banking business that is so easy to abuse for one’s own selfish needs.

Look at Bank Bumiputera Malaysia ….. that had to be rescued so many times and finally gobbled up by CIMB.

What about its Hongkong arm, Bumiputera Malaysia Finance ….. which culminated in the murder of its internal auditor?

What about those ‘sweet heart’ deals of Tan Sri Rashid Hussain of RHB Bank then?

And there was the disastrous loans made by Sime Bank when power appeared to have been literally given to CEO Ismail Zakaria on a silver platter by the Sime Darby board!

Should we now be surprised with the RM3.0 billion losses incurred by Sime Darby’s oil & gas arm when again the requisite checks and balances were not practiced?

For those that did not collapse, how many of them had to be re-capitalised in order to meet the capital adequacy requirements of Bank Negara Malaysia?

So, bud off mates.

Let the 81 year old gentlemen enjoy the praises of his staff who are well rewarded based on meritocracy.



MALAYSIA’S ‘SUBSIDY CUTS’ : WILL CORRUPTION & WASTEFUL OUTFLOWS BE CUT CORRESPONDINGLY?

I can recall vividly that one of the reasons for the severe General Elections loss in March 2008 by the UMNO led Barisan Nasional was the steep spike in the petrol price to RM2.70 per litre.

That caused pandemonium in the working class section of Malaysia who virtually live from hand to mouth. People who drive to work had to relegate themselves to motor cycles. Families that had three dishes per meal had to down-grade themselves to two. Families that had at least a 5 day holiday per year overseas or locally, had to reduce it to a day trip!

Such was the impact of that particular increase in price and its ensuing effect on other items, that the back-lash against the government of the day was bound to be severe ….. hence the loss of the UMNO led government’s two thirds majority in Parliament.

Just over two years after that March 2008 General Elections mauling, the UMNO led government is again proposing increases in prices …. resulting in the cuts in government subsidies.

This time round though, the increases in costs are to be done gradually such that it would hopefully not result in a knee-jerk reaction! click HERE

I don’t think reasonable Malaysians have objections to the reduction or doing away with subsidies ….. if it could prevent the bankruptcy of the government and its ensuing anarchy, similar to that of Greece, or worst still Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe!

The crux of Malaysians concern …. and hence scepticism, is that whilst the ordinary Malaysians are paying ‘through their noses’ for items that are now not subsidised, the government linked companies and agencies are losing monies ‘through its bowels’ …. unnecessarily and wastefully!!!

Need I mention about the Bank Islam fiasco in Labuan, Tabung Haji fiasco involving asset management companies, Port Klang Free Zone scandal and oh so recently, the sickening Sime Darby cost over-runs!

And if one is to infer that these were one-offs, what about those of the yester-years like the Bumiputra Finance scandal in Hongkong, the Sime Bank losses by Ismail Zakaria of RM1.8 billion and the UEM bailout of Halim Saad!

It is imperative that the government addresses the issue of corruption and the severe prosecution of those perpetrators at the same time before they can even think of getting ‘buy-ins’ from the Rakyat at large. These are bread and butter items for them which they can only respond via the ballot box.

Failing which, the UMNO led government (through the action of PEMANDU head, Idris Jala), will only be doing a huge favour for the Pakatan Rakyat opposition led by Anwar Ibrahim!!

Be forewarned!!

UPDATE (29 May 2010) : As expected, the Pakatan Rakyat has jumped on the bandwagon after Idris Jala’s honest and factual declaration that the country will go bankrupt if Malaysia continues to be governed the way it has been since the commencement of Mahathirism. click HERE

UPDATE (30 May 2010) : Well, Najib is on the back-foot not only with the ‘government will go bankrupt by 2019 if nothing is done ….. he was also whip-lashed on the New Economic Model at the recent Bumiputra Economic Congress. And of course the government came in for a mauling if they send in an academic Secretary of the National Economic Advisory Committee (Normah Mansur) to give the key-note address! click HERE for Malaysiakini’s report pasted on this other blog.

And as expected, there was the meek and defensive response from Najib that the NEM is not finalised. click HERE

Are we to bite the bullet? Or are we to pander to the ‘whinings’ of a group that has lost touch with reality as a result of having enjoyed for too long the spoils of their abuse of a past policy that was actually to assist the needy and dis-advantaged Rakyat of Malaysia and not parasites like them?



SIME DARBY’S ‘SHAMEFUL CONFESSION’: RM2.0 BILLION LOSSES FOR POWER DIVISION

If I can quote John McEnroe again, this is the pits!

A deemed blue chip with a market capitalization that is the envy of companies locally, regionally and dare I say globally …. and we get this kind of news! click HERE

Yes, Sime Darby said it would be making provision for losses in the region of RM964 million. But if you were to read their detailed announcement to Bursa, you will realise that the total loss is just under RM2.0 billion.

And we thought the hole created by the ex-subsidiary, SIME BANK, was bad …. you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!!

A company that epitomized corporate governance of the highest standards …. even before its merger with PNB stable of plantation/property companies …. it was thought that under the new regime of Zubir and the visionary thinking of Nor Mohamed Yakcop, Sime Darby was destined for greater things.

How wrong could we be?

And for Andrew Sheng, the Sime Darby director picked to look into these losses, to say that …..

“We have given instructions to the management to strengthen controls and manage all operations in the most prudent and efficient manner.”

……. nearly got me to puke!! This kind of statement is reserved for the small fry, fly by night listed companies that make up a miniscule proportion of the market capitalization. Not Sime Darby.

Shame on you all!!

UPDATE (15 May 2010) – Yes, Sime Darby is a Government Linked Company and whose merger with the PNB companies was the brain child of Nor Mohamed Yakcop and which caused so much consternation and aggravation.

Furthermore, the fact that the government’s investment whizz kids at Khazanah had issued all those multi coloured manuals setting out BEST PRACTICES (in key areas of governance) to be adopted by ALL its government linked companies, should have given comfort to everyone!!

And come to think of it, isn’t Pricewaterhouse Coopers the auditors? This cost issue began in 2006. Have these costs been adequately disclosed in the accounts?

Pricewaterhouse Coopers name is now constantly surfacing in major scandals …… Satyam in India, Kanebo in Japan, Goldman Sachs in the US ….. and now Sime Darby in Malaysia??

Talking about the aggravation caused by the merger, I recall Zubir effectively sacking its CFO and others including directors of Golden Hope (one of the PNB companies that was merged with Sime Darby) in 2008 for losses incurred for apparent irresponsible hedging practices on the prices of Crude Palm Oil ….. and that caused losses of several hundred million of Ringgit. click HERE

It is no wonder that there are calls for a review of Sime Darby’s group practices. I quite support this proposal but let’s make sure the consultants appointed for this task don’t tell you what you want to hear. There is a distinct tendency to do so in Malaysia!