Temasek CEO to go on unexplained leave for 3 months

Ho Ching will step down from most of her duties at the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund for three months, but the firm refused to give a reason for her absence. It follows the death of her father-in-law Lee Kuan Yew.
Temasek CEO to go on unexplained leave for 3 months

The chief executive of Temasek is taking a three-month sabbatical, the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund announced yesterday.

But the firm, which manages assets worth S$223 billion ($164 billion), refused to say why Ho Ching was taking the break, except to deny that it was linked to retirement plans.

Ho's break from her role comes just weeks after the death of her father-in-law Lee Kuan Yew, and two months after her husband had cancer surgery.

Yesterday Temasek Holdings released a statement saying that Ho would be on part-time sabbatical leave for three months but she would "continue with her board duties and specific stewardship duties".

The statement added that Lee Theng Kiat, Temasek president, would "cover her on all normal course of business at Temasek as an investor and shareholder, as an institution and as a steward".

A Temasek spokeswoman told AsianInvestor that Ho’s sabbatical "is not related to any retirement plans at all" but provided no reason for taking the leave.

Temasek did not say when Ho's sabbatical would start, or if it had already started.

Ho, the wife of Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong (the son of Lee Kuan Yew) first joined Temasek in 2002 as executive director, and was elevated to CEO in 2004.

The state investment company has expanded geographically under her watch, opening offices in London and New York last year.

In February 2009, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis and a string of poor investments, Temasek announced that Charles ‘Chip’ Goodyear, a former head of mining group BHP Billiton,  would replace Ho as CEO.

But months later Temasek announced that Goodyear, would not become CEO after all, following apparent differences over strategy. Ho, 62, has continued in the role ever since.

Temasek continued to develop its set-up and the way it allocates capital. Since the $3 billion launch in 2010 of an internal hedge fund, SeaTown, Temasek has established specialist investment units such as Pavilion Capital, set up in late 2011 to focus on Chinese private equity investments.

Temasek has also forged significant co-investment partnerships, such as the one in June 2011 with Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah focusing on property, and the launch in April last year of Astrea II, a co-investment vehicle with holdings in 36 PE funds, to which Temasek has the biggest allocation.

Earlier this year Temasek was seen as one of the major Standard Chartered shareholders who put pressure on the bank to replace its chief executive Peter Sands after the firm's share price had plunged for a year. It was announced in February this year that Sands would stand down in June, to be replaced by former investment banker Bill Winters. At the time Temasek released a statement indicating it was happy with the bank’s sweeping board shake-up.

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