The Financial Times reported on 6 February that Ho Ching, who earlier this week announced her imminent departure from Temasek Holdings, had been expected to serve 10 years when appointed CEO in 2002. The newspaper said, "[Ho Ching] added that her appointment in 2002 was made on the condition that she would remain for at least 10 years to carry out necessary reforms to the once-sleepy state holding company." (Financial Times, 6 Feb 2009, Goodyear to head Temasek)
Stepping down at the end of September 2009 would therefore mean a premature departure.
There seems to be no explanation yet for this apparent change in plans.
Ho Ching is the wife of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Her presence at the head of one of two Singapore government investment vehicles had complicated Temasek's investment forays abroad, giving reason to nationalists from India to Indonesia to argue against allowing Temasek to take up stakes in strategic industries like banking and telecoms.
Another possible reason for change was hinted at in the Financial Times' story. It pointed out that her successor, Charles Goodyear, came from natural resources giant BHP: "Mr Goodyear’s appointment heralds a possible change of investment emphasis for the S$185bn (US$124bn) fund towards natural resources rather than financial services, a sector in which Temasek has recently made massive paper losses in banks, such as Merrill Lynch."
According to Temasek’s most recent annual report, said the Financial Times, two-thirds of its portfolio is in the financial and telecoms sectors – with just 5 per cent in natural resources.
This overweighting of the financial sector in Temasek's portfolio characterised Ho's tenure. Is it now being seen as a serious mistake?