Khazanah poaches UBS ECM star

Malaysian government investment arm hires one of Asia''s most talented up-and-coming ECM bankers to drive its divestment programme.

Malaysian government investment arm, Khazanah Nasional Berhad, has hired Ganen Sarvananthan as its new director of investments. Sarvananthan will join the 35-strong agency once he has completed his last deal for UBS - the IPO of Singapore cellular operator Starhub, which is scheduled to price during the first week of October.

His appointment shows that Khazanah's restructuring is moving up another gear following the arrival of Azman Mokhtar as its new CEO in June. Hot on the heels of neighbouring Temasek, Khazanah is hoping to turn itself into the region's most powerful and dynamic investor.

As such, Mokhtar has been tasked with re-organising and expanding the agency, which will now be responsible for all government investments. Assets that previously came under the direct jurisidiction of the Minister of Finance (currently Badawi) are being transferred to the agency, in the process boosting its asset base from about $8 billion to $60 billion.

In total, the government currently holds stakes in 40 domestic companies, which account for about one third of Malaysia's $110 billion market capitalization. Similarly, Temasek is believed to hold a similar number of publicly-traded assets in Singapore. Neither agency has ever published figures.

One of the key aims of the new government is to make its GLC's more efficient and professional. Badawi has said the government is likely to sell down many of its shareholdings and use the proceeds to build up an international portfolio. It took one of its first steps in this direction at the beginning of September when it announced a bid for Indonesia's Bank Permata in association with Maybank.

Sarvananthan will help search the region for new investments, but his main role will be running deals. Earlier this March, for example, Khazanah got the divestment process underway with the sale of a 9.17% stake in Telekom Malaysia, which raised $769 million under the lead management of CIMB and Credit Suisse First Boston, AmMerchant and ECM Libra.

Both Sarvananthan and his new boss Mokhtar have worked at UBS though never at the same time. Prior to joining Khazanah in June, Mokhar ran his own corporate finance boutique Bina Fikir and before that was at Salomon Smith Barney. Sarvananthan, on the other hand, has spent almost his entire career at UBS, joining the firm in 1997. After being based in London for two years, he moved to Asia, where he has alternated between Singapore and Hong Kong.

His most recent job was head of South East Asian ECM and during 2003 ran the three largest IPO's from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia - SingPost, Astro and Bank Rakyat. He is known internally for being incredibly hardworking and is that rare breed of banker who manages to remain helpful and friendly even in the most stressful of circumstances.

His replacement will be Sutha Kandiah, who will move to Equity Capital Markets from corporate finance. He will continue to be based in Singapore and has been at UBS since 2000.