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New Temasek International chairman tipped to also helm Singtel board

THE chairman of Temasek International has been tipped to take over Singtel's board next year, as veteran chairman Simon Israel plans to retire at the annual general meeting in July 2020.

Lee Theng Kiat, the chairman of state investor Temasek Holdings' management and investment arm, was named on Monday as Singtel's chairman-designate and will take up that position on Jan 15, 2020.

Mr Lee, 66, was appointed to the new role at Singtel just months after he succeeded Ho Ching as chairman of Temasek International on Apr 1 this year. He will keep that job, as well as his post as executive director of Temasek Holdings even after joining Singtel.

The Singtel board said in a statement that it had hunted for a successor to Mr Israel "and found Mr Lee to be the best fit, given his industry, business and governance experience".

Mr Lee will also become a non-executive, non-independent director of Singtel, but has asked not to be paid any director's fees, according to a statement from Temasek Holdings.

While Temasek Holdings is Singtel's largest shareholder, owning 52.5 per cent of the mainboard-listed telco, Singtel's board clarified that he is not a nominee of Temasek Holdings.

Temasek Holdings said Mr Lee's appointment to the Singtel board - which its chairman Lim Boon Heng reiterated is "in his personal capacity and not as a nominee of Temasek" - was approved by its leadership development and compensation committee, with safeguards for potential conflicts of interest.

Mr Lee "does not act for Temasek in respect of his board role at Singtel" and will be recused from Temasek's decision-making process "regarding Singtel and other competing Temasek portfolio companies in Singapore in the telecommunications space", the state investment firm added.

Mr Lim said: "Temasek's governance framework for our portfolio companies is premised on our belief that boards of our portfolio companies should comprise persons with capabilities and complementary skillsets for the oversight of the management of the relevant portfolio company and its businesses."

Mr Lee has been with Temasek Holdings since 2012, when he became president of Temasek International. He was chief executive of Temasek International from 2015 to March 31, 2019.

Before Mr Lee joined Temasek, he was the president and CEO of its wholly-owned subsidiary Singapore Technologies Telemedia - the controlling shareholder of rival mainboard-listed telco StarHub - from 2000 to 2012, and also headed STT Communications during that time.

"Theng Kiat's impeccable corporate governance and leadership credentials will benefit Singtel as it charts its way forward in the new economy," said Mr Israel, who has been a Singtel director since 2003 and its chairman since 2011.

"His extensive experience in mobile communications and data services from his ST Telemedia tenure when it expanded its footprint in Asia-Pacific, the Americas and Europe will also prove instructive," he added.

Singtel shares shed S$0.02 or 0.59 per cent to S$3.37 on its cum-dividend date on Monday before the announcement.