Can Haris save FGV?

A former commercial and land management director at MRT Corp, he comes with a 28-year experience in the corporate world

By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN & SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / Pic By TMR File

FGV Holdings Bhd confirmed the appointment of Datuk Haris Fadzilah Hassan (picture) as its new CEO yesterday, ending a four-month search for a new head to fix the financially bleeding world’s largest crude palm oil (CPO) producer.

The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) first reported Haris’ appointment last week, after being endorsed by Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, who oversees Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) — a stakeholder in FGV.

The government-linked company had been searching for a new head since previous president/CEO Datuk Zakaria Arshad resigned on Sept 19, last year. FGV chairman Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid served as interim CEO.

Haris’ appointment was effective yesterday, in an attempt to revive FGV which is now saddled with financial and operational mess.

A former commercial and land management director at MRT Corp Sdn Bhd, Haris comes with a 28-year experience in the corporate world with renowned entities namely Sime Darby Bhd, Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas), Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Sdn Bhd and MRT Corp.

According to FGV, Haris served MRT Corp for approximately six years and has over five years of experience in the plantation sector.

He will also join a fresh management line-up at FGV, with some being his ex-colleagues at MRT Corp. Former CFO of the rail operator, Datuk Mohd Hairul Abdul Hamid was appointed to the same position in FGV on Jan 2.

FGV also announced two new additions to the management team yesterday: Mazri Abdul Rahim as its new chief human resources officer and Dr Christina Ooi Su Siang as chief procurement officer.

In a statement, Azhar said the new management team has the responsibility to create value for its shareholders through the group’s transformation plan.

“I have full confidence in their ability to deliver the results,” he said.

The appointment of Haris cements the management shift at the troubled planter, which is struggling with mismanagement and low global CPO prices — pushing FGV shares to a record low of 63 sen in the last 52 weeks.

Rumours of potential privatisation remain rife ever since FGV shares fell below RM1 in November last year. It was further fuelled by the government’s plan for a major revamp at FGV and Felda.

The planter is also embroiled in what is expected to be lengthy and complicated civil proceedings filed against former directors and management staff to recover millions from allegedly questionable deals.

FGV posted a dreadful result for its third quarter ended Sept 30, 2018, with a net loss of nearly RM850 million, mainly attributed to a RM500 million provision related to the contentious acquisition of Asian Plantations Ltd.

However, FGV shares rebounded to close at a twomonth high of RM1.01 yesterday, post-announcement of Haris’ appointment — showing some signs of confidence returning in the stock.

Rakuten Trade Sdn Bhd VP of research Vincent Lau said the market is seen to be positive on the new appointment with shares moving above the RM1 mark.

“His (Haris’) significant experience in corporate planning and in Sime Darby Plantation Bhd is a good fit for FGV. I think there is value emerging in it,” Lau told TMR.

He added that plans to take the company private would be a costly affair.

“The privatisation route may not come cheap as they would have to pay significant premium to take it private. With the new government emphasising on transparency, I think what FGV is doing now will put it on the right track,” Lau said.