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This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on December 26, 2022 - January 1, 2023

Familiar faces in Corporate Malaysia who surprisingly bid farewell



Tan Sri Azman Hashim

Former chairman and major shareholder of AMMB Holdings Bhd

After 40 years with AMMB Holdings Bhd, Tan Sri Azman Hashim retired from the country’s sixth-largest banking group by assets this year. The 83-year-old, who had progressively let go of his leadership roles in the group in the last few years, stepped down from his final two roles — non-independent chairman and board member of AMMB — at the end of March.

He, however, continues to be involved with the group in his new role as chairman emeritus and honorary adviser. He also remains its second-largest shareholder, with an 11.82% stake, after the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), with 21.66%.

His retirement took some by surprise as he had shown no signs of wanting to slow down, but Azman told The Edge that, in view of his age, it was “a matter of [finding] an appropriate time” to do so. He said he had informed colleagues of his wish to retire for “some time”.

Analysts said Azman’s exit as AMMB chairman made sense, given Bank Negara Malaysia’s preference for banking groups to be helmed by independent chairpersons.

Few bankers have had Azman’s staying power. A banker for more than six decades now, he has gone through some of the industry’s most challenging times, from the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis and the consequent consolidation of 54 banks into 10 (and subsequently to just eight) to the Covid-19 pandemic. He has worked under every single Bank Negara governor.

Given his significant shareholding and the fact that ANZ is widely known to be eyeing exit options, Azman holds the key to potential mergers and acquisitions at AMMB. Whether there will be developments on this front next year remains to be seen.

He also has a 53.77% stake in consumer finance company RCE Capital Bhd, through his investment firm Cempaka Empayar Sdn Bhd. — By Adeline Paul Raj


(Photo by Shahrin Yahya/The Edge)

Datuk Syed Zaid Albar

Former executive chairman of the Securities Commission Malaysia

The Malaysian stock market was all abuzz when reports trickled out that Datuk Syed Zaid Albar was stepping down as executive chairman of the Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) at the end of May this year. After all, he was only seven months into his second three-year contract, which started in November 2021 and was supposed to run until October 2024. He had helmed the commission since November 2018.

Until today, Syed Zaid and the capital market regulator have not revealed the reason behind his resignation, but his exit coincided with a controversial decision by the Attorney-General’s Chambers to drop charges against troubled oil and gas services company Serba Dinamik Holdings Bhd and four senior executives, who were alleged to have filed false financial statements with the stock exchange in relation to the company’s record high revenue of RM6.01 billion for the 12 months ended Dec 31, 2020.

The SC had earlier compounded Serba Dinamik and the four individuals RM3 million each — the maximum amount permissible under Section 369(a)(B) of the Capital Markets and Services Act — for submitting false financial statements of the company to Bursa Malaysia.

Interestingly, in a statement issued to announce his resignation in April, Syed Zaid, a corporate lawyer, said the regulator’s “integrity, professionalism and dedication” were put to test during his tenure.

The departure of three SC senior officials — namely managing director Foo Lee Mei, executive director and general counsel Chee Fei Meng and executive director of digital strategy and innovation Chin Wei Min — at around the same time that Syed Zaid announced his resignation also set tongues wagging.

In January, the SC also examined the allegation that Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commissioner (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki owned a substantial number of shares in several public-listed companies.

That drew criticism against the SC as the regulator said it could not conclusively establish if there was a breach under Section 25(4) of the Securities Industry (Central Depositories) Act 1991 (SICDA), which stipulates that a trading account must be opened in the name of the beneficial owner or authorised nominee.

A day later, the SC clarified that evidence gathered in its inquiry into Azam Baki’s share trading account shows that he was the named account holder and had control of the account.  It concluded that the chief commissioner “operated the account that he had opened, in that he had given instructions to buy, sell and transfer securities from the said account”.

During his tenure, Syed Zaid helped steer the commission and the capital market through the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. The SC, together with Bursa, also oversaw some crucial developments, including the introduction of temporary relief measures for listed issuers, such as giving them more time to prepare their financial statements and for financially distressed companies, extending the deadline for their regularisation plans. — By Kang Siew Li


Datuk Izzaddin Idris

Former president and CEO of Axiata Group Bhd

The Axiata Group Bhd president and CEO seat vacated by Datuk Izzaddin Idris at end-May 2022 remains unfilled more than six months after he stepped down on the “mutual cessation” of his contract after 17 months at the helm.

Izzaddin’s sudden departure was in stark contrast to the way he had succeeded Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim on Jan 1, 2021, after serving as deputy group CEO since January 2020. It was a challenge he accepted after being a non-executive member of Axiata’s board from November 2016, during which time he was UEM Group Bhd’s managing director until October 2018.

Just a day ahead of the May 27 resignation announcement, Izzaddin was still fielding questions — including those surrounding the government’s June 30 deadline with regard to Digital Nasional Bhd — at Axiata’s annual general meeting on May 26.

The company had just received shareholders’ approval to pay RM2.57 billion for Indonesia-based high-speed broadband and cable TV provider PT Link Net Tbk, despite dissenting votes from board-represented shareholders, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB). Both institutions did not say whether they voted “nay” because they wanted Axiata to increase dividends faster.

Investing to accelerate mobile and fixed convergence between Link Net and XL Axiata may well prove right in the longer term but, in the short term, there is no denying that more of the RM2.8 billion cash, or 27.7 sen per share, from Celcom’s merger with Digi could have gone towards a special dividend without the Link Net purchase.

When announcing a special dividend of four sen per share on Dec 6, Axiata said payment stems from “remaining cash” with most of the RM2.8 billion going towards “strengthening its balance sheet by paring down debt”. Together with the five sen declared following the release of its third quarter results on Nov 25, payment of nine sen per share or about RM909 million declared year to date will only happen on Jan 20, although the stock trades ex-dividend on Dec 29, a Dec 14 announcement shows. Axiata paid 9.5 sen dividend per share in FY2021, up from seven sen in FY2020.

To his credit — even though the mega merger that created the country’s largest converged telecommunications operator, Celcom Digi Bhd, was completed only on Nov 30 — it was during Izzaddin’s tenure that Axiata and Norwegian Telenor ASA announced advanced talks in April 2021 and inked a multibillion merger agreement in June 2021 for each to be an equal 33.1% partner in their combined Malaysian operations. The deal proved more manageable than the botched and audacious multi-country merger with Telenor’s Asian operations led by his predecessor when he was still a board member.

When thanking Izzaddin for his contributions, Axiata chairman Tan Sri Shahril Ridza Ridzuan said Izzaddin was steadfast in executing the Axiata 5.0 Vision and has been instrumental in shaping the group’s strategic response in the face of unprecedented challenges during the pandemic. Axiata’s CEO for telecommunications business and group executive vice-president Hans Wijayasuria and group chief financial officer Vivek Sood have been joint acting group CEO since June 1.

Izzaddin’s successor will need to address expectations of dividend returning to 20 sen per share, which the market has been told may only come by 2027 instead of the previously targeted 2024. — By Cindy Yeap


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