Search for new FGV CEO nearing the end?

An external candidate is expected to be appointed on Jan 15, says a source

By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

FGV Holdings Bhd is nearing the end of its CEO search as speculations are rife that the name of the new head of the troubled planter could come as early as next week.

The planter is a hot-button issue after the government-linked company (GLC) posted an almost RM850 million losses for the July through September 2018 period.

It is also embroiled in what is expected to be lengthy and complicated civil proceedings filed against former directors and management staff to recover millions of losses from alleged questionable deals.

People familiar with the development at the company which has the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) as one of its major shareholders, said a few names had been submitted to the Economic Affairs Ministry for consideration.

One source said the ministry led by Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali has so far rejected three internal names nominated by the board, strengthening the possibility an external candidate would likely take the helm at the company.

“FGV has no more internal names to propose. They were not endorsed by the ministry. We now expect an external candidate to be appointed, tentatively on Jan 15, and we are preparing for that date,” a source close to the development told The Malaysian Reserve.

Azmin’s ministry has been entrusted to steer the troubled planter and its major shareholder, Felda, away from its financial mess. Felda is wallowing with about RM8 billion of debt and facing a cashflow problem, Azmin had announced previously.

A white paper on Felda will be presented by the government soon.

FGV and Felda’s failures would have a devastating impact on the thousands of settlers who are directly connected to the two firms.

FGV, the world’s second-largest listing in 2012 after Facebook Inc, raked in about US$3.1 billion (RM12.76 billion) from its initial public offering (IPO). But its share price had plummeted to a record low of 63 sen in the last 52 weeks, a far cry from the excitement of its RM4.55 price debut less than seven years ago. FGVclosed at 73 sen yesterday.

The new CEO faces a herculean tasks to correct the planter, which is now managed by interim CEO Datuk Wira Azhar Abdul Hamid. Azhar is also FGV chairman.

A new batch of top personnel, many whom are former staff of old “Sime Darby Bhd” and Mass Rapid Transit Corp Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp), had been recruited in recent months to help achieve the planter’s turnaround plan.

The latest was Datuk Mohd Hairul Abdul Hamid, who was appointed as the company’s new CFO last week. Mohd Hairul, who replaced Ahmad Tifli Mohd Talha, was the former CFO of MRT Corp and an ex-staff of Sime Darby.

Sime Darby had been the reference of the country’s plantation sector. Azhar himself served in various key positions within the Sime Darby Group.

It is not known who were the internal candidates proposed by the FGV board, but it was likely they were among the new top management recently recruited by the planter.

It is learned that former FGV senior executive Fairuz Ismail was among the names that were being considered for the position. Fairuz had temporarily served as the acting COO of the plantation sector and head of palm upstream cluster prior to his departure two months ago.

A few top FGV staff had also departed from the company after their contracts ended.

Another source said various top management positions are now filled with former employees of Sime Darby and MRT Crop.

The world’s largest crude palm oil producer has been searching for a new chief following Datuk Zakaria Arshad’s resignation in September last year.

 

(Updated: Paragraph 2 and 4 have been edited from the original article for correctness and clarity.)