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SMRT CFO resigns after eight months, last day Nov 9

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SMRT Corp's group chief financial officer, Sam Ong Eng Keang, has resigned after eight months on the job and his last day will be Nov 9.

SMRT Corp's group chief financial officer, Sam Ong Eng Keang, has resigned after eight months on the job and his last day will be Nov 9.

The transport operator said in a release on Tuesday that Mr Ong, who joined SMRT on March 1, 2014, is leaving to "pursue philanthropic interests and business prospects".

Pending the appointment of a new CFO to replace Mr Ong, the responsibilities of the CFO will be covered by Cindy Lau, its vice-president of group finance & shared services.

Some analysts were surprised by Mr Ong's rather short stay. He joined SMRT from Singapore-listed waste water management firm Hyflux, where he was group senior executive vice-president and deputy CEO.

SMRT said its CFO provides the overall leadership to the finance function of the group. The CFO is also expected to play a key role in developing, monitoring and evaluating overall corporate strategy with the chief executive officer and leaders of business units with emphasis on bottomline performance, working capital and enhancing shareholder value.

"This position provides useful financial insights to help make better decisions about formulating and executing strategy. Major responsibilities include corporate governance, accounting, treasury, investments and financial reporting,'' SMRT said.

An analyst said while the sudden departure of the CFO would be taken as a red flag for most companies, "we believe this should be an exception due to SMRT's history of strong corporate governance and majority ownership by Temasek".

Furthermore, SMRT had just reported a stellar set of Q2 2015 results indicating a strong earnings recovery on the back of higher fares, lower costs and operating efficiencies. Net profit spiked up 75.5 per cent to S$25.3 million for the second quarter ended Sept 30 on improved performance in its train and bus operations, as well as higher profitability from its taxi, rental and advertising businesses. Revenue was 6.0 per cent higher at S$314.0 million compared to the same period a year ago.

Looking ahead, SMRT said the fare business environment will continue to be challenging owing to heightened operational demands on service and capacity.