New FGV CEO likely to be appointed by year-end

The 11 shortlisted candidates include a couple of internal nominees

By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS

FGV Holdings Bhd chairman Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid will only serve as the company’s interim CEO for two to three months, as a new CEO is expected to be named at the end of the year.

A source told The Malaysian Reserve that the group is considering 11 shortlisted candidates, who were mentioned earlier by Azhar for the top executive role.

“I think he will be the interim CEO only for two to three months. We should have a new CEO by the end of the year.

“The logic (for Azhar’s appointment) is simple. It is very difficult to manage the company through a Special Board Committee. If we have the chairman as the interim CEO, it would be easier.

“We are definitely going to have a CEO by the end of the year,” the source said.

Earlier this month, Azhar said the company was in the middle of a selection process to appoint the new chief, who would be tasked to drive the world’s third-largest plantation operator forward.

The candidates include a couple of internal nominees, while Azhar did not deny the possibility of having a foreigner as the group’s new president and CEO.

The plantation group has lost more than RM13.5 billion in market capitalisation since it went public in 2012.

Allegations of questionable dealings, political influences and weak financial performances have plagued the company over the years.

Datuk Zakaria Arshad (picture) resigned as FGV group president and CEO on Sept 18, six days after he was issued a suspension letter and stripped of all his duties. Zakaria’s suspension last month was his second in just 15 months.

Speculation of a management fallout heightened after Zakaria and CFO Ahmad Tifli Mohd Talha were absent at a recent press conference called by Azhar to reveal the status of the company’s forensic audit over irregular transactions.

Zakaria provided no reason for his departure, but the source claimed that it was not due to charges related to any misdealing at FGV.

“There were no charges made against Zakaria when he left. He just decided it was better for him to leave after having discussions with the board. The departure was on a goodwill basis,” the source said.

Ahmad Tifli also stepped down from his role to pursue other career opportunities. FGV has since appointed its head of group finance division, Aznur Kama Azmir, as the acting group CFO.

“He (Ahmad Tifli) has expressed his desire to expand his knowledge elsewhere. I don’t think their resignations had anything to do with the cases being investigated.

“Although they had nothing to do with it, they felt it would be better to depart on good terms,” the source said.

Both Zakaria and Ahmad Tifli were previously suspended under former chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad over alleged irregularities in transactions between FGV subsidiary Delima Oil Products Sdn Bhd and Dubaibased Safitex Trading LLC.

After a four month-long drama, which included a government intervention and raids by anti-graft officials, Zakaria and Ahmad Tifli returned to FGV while Mohd Isa was forced to relinquish his position as chairman of FGV and other positions in Federal Land Development Authority, or Felda.