Temasek refutes claim Ho Ching makes RM308m a year

The Singapore state investor doesn’t disclose the salaries of its executives in its annual report

SINGAPORE • Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd denied speculation that CEO Ho Ching makes S$100 million (RM308 million) a year.

“This claim is false,” the Singapore state investor said in a rare statement addressing the pay of the top executive, who’s also Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife. “Furthermore, Ho’s annual compensation is neither the highest within Temasek, nor is she among the top five highest-paid executives in Temasek.”

Temasek manages a portfolio that’s valued at S$313 billion as of March 2019. It’s the biggest stakeholder in half of the country’s 10 largest companies by market value, including flag-carrier Singapore Airlines Ltd and DBS Group Holdings Ltd, South-East Asia’s biggest lender.

The company issued a response following “chatter based on an Asian talk show commentary”, it said. It reviews compensation practices across the financial industry annually, according to the statement.

“This is an added check to support talent attraction and retention, within the context of our compensation framework,” Temasek said. “Incentives focus on long-term performance, and ensure employees share gains and pains alongside Temasek’s shareholder during the economic cycles.”

Temasek doesn’t disclose the salaries of its executives in its annual report, but describes its compensation framework as one benchmarked against relevant markets and includes incentives and clawbacks based on performance.

Among Singapore’s three biggest banks, Piyush Gupta, the CEO of DBS, had the largest pay at S$11.9 million including bonus and deferred shares, according to its 2018 annual report. The heads of the other two banks each earned about S$10.6 million.

Still, the past financial year that ended in March may have been a tougher year in terms of performance for Temasek. The Singapore benchmark stock index lost almost a quarter of its value in that period, while the MSCI World Index dropped 12%.

The company in February said it’s implementing a company-wide wage freeze and asking senior management to take voluntary pay reductions for as long as a year amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Opposition lawmakers have previously asked for details of remuneration of Temasek’s top executives, only to be told by the government that it maintains an arm’s-length relationship and doesn’t interfere in operational decisions.

Ho, who uses Facebook to air her views on social media, has been vocal in defending Singapore’s efforts to contain the coronavirus spread. She blasted critics last Friday, saying Singapore — which has seen cases soared to close to 6,000 — wasn’t alone in misreading the pandemic’s spread among patients who don’t display symptoms.

Ho also previously defended the salary of her husband, who is among the world’s highest-paid leaders, after a blog compared his pay to that of US President Donald Trump, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and others. As of September 2018, Lee’s annual compensation is S$2.2 million including bonuses, according to the government. Lee doesn’t get a performance bonus. — Bloomberg