Walk and talk at FGV


APPLE Inc paid CEO Tim Cook US$15.68 million (RM64.92 million) last year. That figure includes a base salary of US$3 million, US$12 million in bonus and incentives, and US$0.29 million for Cook’s private jet fare expenses.

Such amount may sound astronomical or even ridiculous. But then again, he led the iPhone maker to register sales of US$265.6 billion last year. It reported almost US$60 billion in profit.

The company’s market capitalisation rose to around US$1.13 trillion in August and became the first US-listed company to breach the US$1 trillion mark.

Apple’s highest market capitalisation was only dwarfed by 15 largest economies in the world based on GDP nominal figures.

Malaysia’s projected GDP (nominal) (all the economic activities we strive to achieve) for 2019 is expected to reach US$372.63 billion. Malaysia is ranked the 35th-biggest economy based on GDP.

The iPod maker has a cash pile of US$245 billion at the end of March this year. In comparison, Bank Negara Malaysia’s international reserves stood at US$102.7 billion as at June 28.

That means Apple has more money stashed somewhere in the world than the central banks of many countries. In fact, if Cook is working for a government-linked company (GLC) in Malaysia, he will be given a god-like treatment, labelled as the messiah of profit and put on a golden pedestal with “servants” to carry his bags. They might even erect a statue of him in front of the corporate office.

But not everyone is as fortunate in the dog-eat-dog corporate world.

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd (Singtel) group CEO Chua Sock Koong saw her pay package nearly halved.

Chua was paid US$3.5 million in annual salary, bonus and other benefits for 2018, a far cry than the US$6.1 million she received in 2017.

Singtel suffered a 44% drop in net profit last year, so Chua’s poor paycheck was not a surprise especially in the city-state that is kiasu about performance.

Closer to home, Genting Malaysia Bhd chairman and CEO Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay recently volunteered to take a 20% pay cut after a dismal performance of the company’s shares. The 20% pay cut would make the highest paid CEO and Malaysia’s seventh richest man about RM10 million poorer.

Genting Malaysia’s share price tumbled almost half in the last 52 weeks and it posted a net loss of RM19 million for 2018, largely due to impairments. But the company had announced a 13 sen dividend.

Though Lim’s salary cut is like asking Bill Gates to donate US$10 million to a charity, the company’s shareholders welcomed the move of the corporate figure whose late father turned a quiet hillside bordering Selangor into a global empire.

Salary, remuneration and benefits have become a contentious issue in corporate Malaysia over the last 12 months, especially at GLCs. Shareholders are becoming aware of their rights and voicing their utter raw disgust at some of the payments.

FGV Holdings Bhd recently took the full brunt of its shareholders’ anger.

Its major shareholders — the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) and Koperasi Permodalan Felda Malaysia Bhd (KPF) — torpedoed resolutions related to the fees of the planter’s board members.

Felda owns about 33.6% in FGV, KPF 5% and LTAT 1.25%. The shareholders also gunned down a resolution to allow directors to allot and issue shares.

The board members have tabled a total remuneration of RM5.74 million, an amount that is identical to the 2017 financial year. Non-executive chairman Datuk Wira Azhar Abdul Hamid’s share of the cash pile is RM1.95 million. Azhar voiced his disbelief over the rejection. He was reported as saying “(The rejection) totally reflects all the efforts made that have not been appreciated by our major shareholders. Maybe they feel that others can do better”.

Some of the comments sound like the commentaries in the British press after England lost to the US in the Women’s World Cup semi-final.

No matter how hard you try to paint a positive outlook and drive public relations’ narratives — figures do not lie.

FGV did not announce any dividend for 2018. Its share price fell to the lowest of 63 sen in December last year.

The company recorded a net loss of RM1 billion (though some may argue it was largely due to impairments. They do not complain if the profit includes asset disposals).

Tell that to Felda, KPF and LTAT whose shares in FGV were at RM4.55 apiece when the firm was listed in 2012.

Explain to them what happened to the declining dividend payments from 14 sen in 2012 to 16 sen (2013), 10 sen (2014), four sen (2015), one sen (2016) and five sen (2017). Help Felda, KPF and LTAT tell their own contributors and cooperatives members that you are getting zilch from FGV.

It is easy to talk and walk. But it is not easy to talk the talk and walk the walk.

Mohamad Azlan Jaafar is the editor-in-chief at The Malaysian Reserve.