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Home > Headlines > Temasek 'to ditch Pong, Boonklee'

Temasek 'to ditch Pong, Boonklee'

Crown Prince's private secretary has been invited to join the board

Temasek Holdings of Singapore plans to shore up the image of Shin Corp by removing chairman Pong Sarasin, while CEO Boonklee Plangsiri may also lose his job in a management reshuffle, industry sources said yesterday.

Temasek has invited MR Tongnoi Tongyai, the private secretary of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, to join the board of Shin Corp and in due time he would replace Pong.

However, Temasek came out to deny a news report that it was unhappy with Pong's performance, or that it was going to shake up Shin's board.

This follows allegations that the Singaporean government's investment arm had relied on nominees in violation of the Foreign Business Act in its takeover of Shin.

"There is no truth in the report that Temasek is disappointed with Khun Pong Sarasin. We are very fortunate and privileged to have a person of Khun Pong's stature as chairman of the Shin board. His continuing presence on the board as its chairman together with his steady influence and guidance to the Shin board and management is deeply appreciated," Temasek said in a statement.

"There was no mention of any changes to the Shin board, and any such decisions will have to be made by the Shin board," it said.

Nothing was said either about any appointment of Tongnoi as an adviser to the Bangkok representative office that Temasek intends to set up.

An industry observer said Temasek's response represented a tactical move to manage the delicate Shin Corp affair and the shaky relationship with Pong.

"Since January, Pong has been keeping quiet and saying almost nothing despite the controversy over Temasek's takeover of Shin Corp. He is seen as doing nothing to help out Temasek," the source said.

He also confirmed that it was just a matter of timing as to when Tongnoi would join the Shin board and succeed Pong as chairman.

Another industry source said Shin CEO Boonklee, who has been regarded as the right-hand man of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was also expected to leave as part of Temasek's attempt to distance itself from the Shinawatra family and to develop a fresh image for Shin.

A Shin source said Temasek had earlier asked Boonklee to stay on with Shin after the takeover, due to his management expertise. Boonklee "verbally promised" to stay at Shin for just two years after the takeover, the source added.

The Shinawatra family sold its 50-per-cent stake in Shin to a group led by Temasek in January, which sparked public criticism that the family had handed national telecom assets to a foreign entity. Shin's businesses range from satellites to TV and telecoms.

Two Temasek-linked firms - Cedar Holdings and Aspen Holdings - own 54.53 per cent and 41.76 per cent of Shin, respectively.

Pong and Suphadej Poonpipat jointly own 4.25 per cent of Kularb Kaew, which is part of the group that took over Shin from the Shinawatra clan.

Vijit Supinit, chairman of the Stock Exchange of Thailand, has advised Shin's management to meet the bourse and the Securities and Exchange Commission to discuss a contingency plan for the group's listed companies in case they are forced to change their shareholding structure due to the nominee issue.

The SET has to wait for the final results of the nominee probe started by the Commerce Ministry, which passed its findings to police for further investigation. Once they come out, the SET is ready to rectify any problem areas, he said.

"But initially, the Shin group of companies, as listed firms, and other parties should consult with the SET, the SEC and other agencies on how to solve the problem in the short term," he said.

Vijit also predicted that about 100 companies would list on the SET and the Market for Alternative Investment next year, due to the improving economic and political situations.

He also said the SET Index should pass 750 by year-end and hit 800 next year.

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