Up to 11 candidates for FGV CEO post

By P PREM KUMAR, ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN & DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By TMR

FGV Holdings Bhd has shortlisted a number of candidates considered suitable to fill the group president and CEO position vacated by Datuk Zakaria Arshad last month.

Its chairman Datuk Wira Azhar Abdul Hamid said the firm is currently in the selection process to appoint the new chief, who would be tasked to drive the scandal-plagued plantation giant forward.

The CEO position has been vacant since Zakaria’s departure on Sept 18, six days after he was issued a suspension letter and stripped of all duties.

“There are about 10 to 11 contenders. We have a couple of internal candidates and a few external candidates as well.

“We are open (to having a foreigner as CEO). But we would prefer a local,” he told reporters on the sidelines of “Malaysia: A New Dawn 2018 Investor Conference”.

The world’s largest crude palm oil producer, which recently announced a turnaround plan to restore its operational integrity, is expected to see more management changes as it concludes investigations into its past investments.

Azhar expects the investigation and changes in management to conclude by year-end.

“We have already come to the tail-end of the process. We just need to initiate the plan.

“By year-end, everything should be resolved,” he said.

On a separate note, IOI Group CEO Datuk Lee Yeow Chor expressed the need to grant flexibility to land settlers in government-controlled centralised schemes to opt out of the plantation business.

He said schemes introduced through the Federal Land Development Agency and Felcra Bhd had become irrelevant as many of the new generation planters are not interested in the sector or in planting oil palm specifically.

“Instead of forcing these smallholders to continue oil palm cultivation under these schemes, I’m suggesting that freedom should be given to these landowners to withdraw from the system so that they can pursue other activities which suit them today.

“The idea is that we should release the land from patronised government control, which may have worked well earlier, to be used by private enterprises. This will allow private enterprises to thrive and use this land for different purposes,” Lee said.

While Azhar reacted positively to the recommendation, he said the idea cannot be generalised and applied to all parts of the country.

“It depends. In West Malaysia, we can consider the proposal, but certainly not in Sabah and Sarawak. We may still need that sort of scheme there because the wealth distribution there is not as good as in the peninsula.”