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Most influential people in the remaking of Malaysia Inc

   
The Edge, 4 January 2002

Changing for the better
Malaysia Inc — that 20-year-old collaboration of government leadership and private entrepreneurship — is being reshaped. It is happening without the fanfare of the past, but real tangible changes are occurring, driven by the combination of both the new global realities and events on the home front.

In an exclusive interview with The Edge, economic adviser to the Prime Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop articulates publicly for the first time the new thinking of the government on Malaysia Inc. In the process, he sheds some light on some of the policy initiatives the government has taken recently in the restructuring of Corporate Malaysia.

But to be successful, policies need people, capable and honest people — to implement them, to improve on them. It’s in line with this that The Edge decided to compile a list of people who we think will be the most influential in the remaking of Malaysia Inc.

The editors of The Edge used five criteria in drawing up the list: stature, that is, the individual’s standing or that of the organisation or corporation he or she represents; power, meaning resources available to them that will help them to play their role; wealth, both personal as well as that of the organisation or corporation they represent; spread and importance of the person or organisation/corporation’s influence; and economic impact. Thirty-five men and women made the cut. They are the high-profiled ones. But there is also a group of experienced professionals who have been handpicked to join the boards of corporations like Malaysia Airlines, MISC, Proton, Renong and UEM to help strengthen management. Their work away from the limelight should be recognised, not forgetting those in the civil service as well.

There is much work to be done, measures that need to be taken to ensure a stronger, more transparent and more resilient Corporate Malaysia, but the people whose names appear in the pages that follow raise hopes — and expectations — that the future will be better. Some are old hands in government and the private sector and a few are young professional managers, but all will play a major role in the remaking of Malaysia Inc.

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Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Prime Minister of Malaysia
After 20 years at the helm, the architect of Malaysia Inc is still capable of surprises. He shocked the world in 1998 when through sheer conviction and determination he pushed through the move to impose selective exchange controls against the advice of many in his Cabinet. He has the ability to think out of the box at critical times, and his strong will enables him to pursue ideas and projects that others often question, to success. But he is also ready to change and reverse policies if convinced of the need. Some of his decisions these last few months, which have surprised many people, have provided proof of this.

While he often rails against the unfair impact of globalisation on developing nations, Mahathir also knows that Malaysia Inc must move quickly to raise its efficiency and competitiveness if we are not to slip down the global economic ladder.

Now, as he sets out to remake Malaysia Inc, Mahathir is showing that there can be no “sacred cows” that stand in the way of change for the better. He believes that if a country, particularly a multi-racial society like Malaysia, gets its economics right, it will make it easier for other problems to be fixed.

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Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia
As the DPM, Abdullah plays a complementary and supportive role in helping the PM remake Malaysia Inc. While some may see his inexperience in financial and economic affairs as a handicap, it may well be a strength as he can provide a perspective different from that of financial experts.

He is also said to be a good listener. Although he holds no financial portfolio, the DPM is involved in all major policy-making decisions. And on those occasions where he has spoken on business matters, he has made it clear to businessmen that they have to shape up or ship out as the government cannot continue to come to their rescue every time they get into trouble.

Expect him to slowly but surely make his views on economic and financial matters heard by a wider audience.

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Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop
Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister
Former central banker Nor Mohamed is probably the PM’s closest financial and economic adviser today. Called back from the corporate world to devise the plan to shield the country against currency speculators in 1998, only he and Dr Mahathir were convinced that capital controls could work without inflicting the economic damage that others had feared would happen. The two men were said to have often worked alone in those dark days to come out with the controls and then to convince the Cabinet to go ahead with the unorthodox measures.

Time has proven them right and Nor Mohamed is now the principal adviser to the PM in the remaking and reshaping of Malaysia Inc. He is said to be the person pushing strongly for separating ownership from management in Corporate Malaysia to promote greater professionalism and better corporate governance.

Industry players who work closely with Nor Mohamed say he is open-minded and always eager to get as much feedback as he can on any matter. He is also said to be very quick at making decisions and has zero tolerance for shady deal-making.

There seem to be very few, if any, major deals in the country’s economic and corporate scene today that escape his scrutiny. He appears to be the point man in both policy-making and financial trouble-shooting.

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Tan Sri Ali Abul Hassan Sulaiman
Economic adviser to the Prime Minister
The PM’s other economic adviser, Ali Abul Hassan, is a trusted aide having served as head of the Economic Planning Unit in the PM’s Department for eight years. He was one of the key implementers of the government’s privatisation programme. When the then Bank Negara Governor Tan Sri Ahmad Don resigned over the imposition of capital controls in 1998, Ali Abul Hassan was asked to take over the helm of the central bank during that difficult period.

As Bank Negara governor, he quickly set about reversing the previous International Monetary Fund-recommended policy of high interest rates. His term as Bank Negara governor was surprisingly not renewed when it ended on May 1, 2000. At that time, market talk had it that his relationship with then Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin was not particularly good.

But he bounced back quickly and in April this year, returned to the limelight as an adviser to the Prime Minister. His appointment came just days before Daim announced that he was going on two months’ leave.

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Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Marican
President & CEO, Petronas
Together, Azizan and Petronas president and chief executive officer Mohd Hassan form one of the most effective and respected partnerships in corporate Malaysia.

Paddy Bowie, in her book on Petronas titled A Vision Realised — The Transformation of a National Oil Corporation, says: “The combination of Azizan and Hassan was a corporate marriage made in heaven — the visionary/idealist and the practical professional. One a father figure and industry statesman, the other a young dynamic technocrat.”

Today, Petronas has activities in 25 countries, with extensive operations in Africa and Asia. Hassan is the chairman of Engen Ltd, a Petronas subsidiary and South Africa’s leading oil refinery and marketing company. He also sits on the board of Premier Oil plc, a Petronas associate company which is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Says Azizan: “Hassan displayed the right balance of cautiousness and readiness to take risks, setting the stage for business growth.”

Petronas is likely to continue to be involved in “national service” in areas where it can provide expertise as well as financial resources. The project management of Putrajaya, the acquisition of Proton and the Sepang Formula 1 circuit are recent examples.

Despite criticism that it has involved itself in non-core business and acquisitions, by any measure Petronas is a success story in corporate Malaysia. National interest will always come first for Petronas, so more acquisitions or bailouts can’t be ruled out. But the business acumen, sound judgement and integrity of Azizan and Hassan are good reasons for Malaysians to trust that the country’s most precious resources are in safe hands.

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Tan Sri Azizan Zainul Abidin
Chairman, Petronas
Petronas is the only Malaysian company ranked in the Fortune 500 list of the world’s largest corporations. Its financial strength is astounding. For the year ended March 2001, Petronas had a turnover of RM73.4 billion, pre-tax profit of RM29 billion, shareholders’ funds of RM54 billion and total assets of RM139 billion. It is also the nation’s biggest investor overseas.

Managed by professional managers, the national oil corporation epitomises the new Malaysia Inc spirit and concept.

Azizan once said, “Great leaders do more than run things efficiently. They develop and put into practice ideas that transcend the company and their industry.”

Petronas in the last decade has done just that, expanding its domestic operations and moving overseas into exploration and production, gas pipeline projects and petrochemical industries, often in partnership with other national oil corporations. Azizan’s mantra — “expand or perish” — was the driving force behind Petronas’ transformation into a multinational.

Azizan was also the man behind Petronas’ international branding through the Formula One race and was instrumental in enhancing the company’s status as an engineering company. Azizan has often been entrusted with special tasks. As president and CEO of Perbadanan Putrajaya since 1996, he is involved in the planning and managing of the new federal government administrative centre.

He may be 66, but expect Azizan to continue to feature in the nation’s development and the remaking of Malaysia Inc. For proof, look no further than Malaysia Airlines — when the government took over the beleaguered privatised airline this year, Azizan was appointed its chairman.

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Tan Sri Halim Ali
Chairman, Employees Provident Fund

Azlan Zainol
Chief executive officer, Employees Provident Fund
The sheer size of the fund (RM189.4 billion as at end-September) gives it enormous clout in Corporate Malaysia. The EPF is not only the largest institutional investor in the country but also a source of loans for companies in dire need.

As No 1 and 2 respectively in the EPF, Halim and Azlan play a crucial role in the future governance of Malaysia’s companies as Malaysia Inc moves towards institutionalised ownership. They have to take the lead in promoting minority interests and in pursuing better corporate governance.

How well they play it is another matter. The EPF will have to set its own house in order first before it can be effective as an institutional owner/watchdog of Corporate Malaysia. Over the years, the fund has received much flak for investments seemingly gone wrong, for money poured into bailouts and for the lack of transparency of its investment decisions. The EPF’s investment in Time dotCom shares at RM3.30 each (in a debt-equity swap) raised an outcry as most market observers believed that the stock’s initial public offering had been overvalued and therefore, held little upside potential. Subsequent events appeared to prove the critics right.

Ultimately, the EPF is a statutory body governed by the Ministry of Finance, and there are limits to what it can achieve. Even so, the public will want a stronger reason than that from Halim and Azlan if they do not live up to the roles they can, and are expected to play, in the remaking of Malaysia Inc.

The fund faces other challenges. The low interest rate regime and weak stock market will make it more challenging for it to get maximum returns from its investments. For the year 2000, it channelled 21.2 per cent, or RM37.97 billion of its total investment, into equities and about 20.48 per cent, or RM36.67 billion, into loans and debentures. The largest portion of its funds comprising about 34 per cent, or RM61.77 billion, was invested in Malaysian Government Securities while 23 per cent, or RM41.43 billion, went into money market instruments.

The fund drew a gross income of RM10.54 billion but due to higher provisions for diminution in value of investment in equities, it made a net income of RM9.77 billion. Going forward, how the fund’s monies are used will be scrutinised even more closely. The duo will have to strike a balance between giving the best returns to EPF contributors and being a source of funding for development projects.

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Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid
Chairman, Permodalan Nasional Bhd
As chief secretary to the government from 1990 to 1996, Ahmad Sarji was credited with turning the government machinery into a more efficient force to meet the demands of the private sector.

It was no surprise that when he retired from government service, he was handpicked to be chairman of bumiputera investment agency PNB, a post held by those who have earned the trust of the prime minister. PNB’s first chairman was the late Tun Ismail Mohd Ali, a former governor of Bank Negara.

As guardian of the interests of bumiputera investors and a major player on the local corporate scene, PNB is pivotal in Malaysia Inc. It is currently the biggest player in the equity market and its blue chip holdings include Maybank, Sime Darby, Golden Hope Plantations, Kumpulan Guthrie, UMW and Island & Peninsular.

Ahmad Sarji’s vast experience in the government service has helped PNB and its group of companies to do well financially. He is well-versed on Corporate Malaysia as he had previously sat on the boards of the Foreign Investment Committee, Capital Issues Committee, Export Promotion Council Malaysia, Committee on Invisible Trade and Panel on Takeovers and Mergers.

He was instrumental in charting the future direction of the country when he chaired the Second National Economic Consultative Council in 1999.

How he leads the PNB group of companies forward as Malaysia Inc remakes itself will be significant.

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Datuk Mohamed Azman Yahya
Chairman, Corporate Debt Restructuring Committee and Danaharta
At 30, Azman had the distinction of becoming the youngest CEO of a merchant bank. At 34 and relatively unknown and untested, he was given a key role in helping to nurse the bulk of the banking system’s bad debts after the 1997-98 financial crisis left a trail of ailing financial institutions and corporations in its wake. He was appointed managing director of Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional in 1998 — the national asset management company assigned the task of rehabilitating the banking system’s bad loans. In July this year, he was given another key role in what is now described as “The Big Clean-Up” of Corporate Malaysia — the government’s takeover of United Engineers (M) Bhd.

He is also now chairman of the Corporate Debt Restructuring Committee (CDRC). His influence is clear — as head of CDRC, he will help shape several major corporate restructuring plans — which will determine, to a large extent, the future corporate landscape. His recent assignments have left him “sometimes longing for the days when I can deal with healthy companies”, he says, half in jest. He believes that while corporate failures are part and parcel of a free market, they should not pose a systemic risk to the financial sector.

Voted Restructuring Agency Chief of the Year by Asiamoney last year, Azman is probably the leading young professional manager the government has tapped for Malaysia Inc — Part 2.

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Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Ungku Abdul Aziz
Governor, Bank Negara Malaysia
As governor of the nation’s central bank, Zeti regulates the banking industry, which is, as one foreign banker puts it, “the underpinning mover and provider for [Corporate Malaysia’s] business transactions”, and a key middleman in wealth creation. Indeed, the central bank sets the banking standards and monetary policies that make sure Malaysian banks are healthy enough to finance Malaysia Inc.

Has she got what it takes to help remake Malaysia Inc in her capacity as central bank governor? Bankers speak glowingly of Zeti’s credentials as a central banker — her knowledge, experience, and the valuable contacts she has cultivated in over 20 years of working with or for central banks. Observers say she has also brought more transparency to the way the central bank operates, which should suit the apparent new spirit of Malaysia Inc.

At the height of the 1998 crisis, Zeti as acting governor implemented Malaysia’s controversial selective exchange controls. She has since been an articulate defender of these policies. But critics note that she was also the central bank official who had worked very closely with the International Monetary Fund to implement the high-interest rate policy of that period.

Beyond crisis management, observers say Zeti has an eye on the need for the banking sector to prepare for the challenges ahead and to support the future economy of Malaysia, as shown by the release earlier this year of the Financial Sector Master Plan. “She is market-savvy and has made some bold moves by putting in place far-sighted policies such as the Financial Sector Master Plan,” says Michael Hague, chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd.

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Datuk Ali Abdul Kadir
Chairman, Securities Commission
When he assumed the role of SC chairman in March 1999, Ali’s task was to restore investors’ confidence. The Asian crisis the year before had roiled both companies and markets. But so far, his role has been seen as mainly that of a “fire fighter” and defending the market, rather than instituting sweeping changes to develop it. Some say that there has been little evidence of market development activity to drive the capital market over the last few years.

Still, Ali is credited with several major successes. For one, the long-awaited Capital Market Master Plan, detailing the market’s direction for the next 10 years, was finally rolled out in February this year. “He put a vision down on paper,” says one observer.

The consolidation of the stockbroking industry is yet another significant event.

Although the pace of consolidation has been left to market forces, the process has at least begun, and the industry saw the creation of the Universal Broker.

Industry observers, however, are still perplexed by the different policies announced by the authorities, particularly the creation of the investment bank under Bank Negara’s Financial Sector Master Plan.

“The direction in which the industry is heading is still unclear and there is a great need for the authorities to start talking to each other,” comments an industry player.

This is all the more important as the SC, being the premier regulator of the country’s corporate and capital markets, has the power to facilitate an environment for wealth creation necessary in the remaking of Malaysia Inc.

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Datin Zarinah Anwar
Deputy chief executive, Securities Commission
Members of the stockbroking fraternity are cautiously hopeful that Zarinah, the newly appointed deputy chief executive of the SC, will help to bring more transparency and accountability and faster restructuring in Corporate Malaysia. Zarinah is a virtual unknown in the securities industry. A lawyer by training, she spent the last 22 years working for Shell, where she was one of the few women to rise to the top rungs of management. When her appointment to the SC was announced by the Ministry of Finance in October, Zarinah was the deputy chairman and director of human resources at Shell Malaysia.

But stockbrokers are encouraged by what they do know of her. She is said to be efficient, intelligent and professional.

That the government plucked Zarinah out of her advanced career at Shell suggests that they have big plans for her. But Corporate Malaysia and the securities industry will be watching to see what she does in her new role (she took office on Dec 1). And they want to know more about her.

“Her past background will instill confidence for the industry, [but] it would be good if it is made visible to all,” says Franklin Tan, head of research at OCBC Securities.

The optimists are hoping that her professional grounding in a multinational like Shell will bring a fresh perspective to a regulator like the SC.

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Datuk Mohamed Azlan Hashim
Chairman, Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange
Azlan became the first non-broker to head the KLSE when he was appointed by the then Minister of Finance to the chair in January 1998.

Naturally the broking community balked at what they regarded as the loss of their seat of power at the exchange (the KLSE is a member-owned exchange).

Since then, the rumours have abounded: that Azlan is on his way out, that he is staying another term, that he is moving on to the Securities Commission. But Azlan himself has maintained a stiff upper-lipped silence, declining to dignify any and all rumours. Today, some would say in the face of huge obstacles, he is still at the helm of the exchange, steering it through some of the most challenging times for the entire stockbroking industry.

The industry is in the throes of a consolidation exercise, which has been going on for two years. The next step will be the demutualisation and eventual listing of the KLSE. And Azlan is playing a key role in both.

He has spoken openly of his concerns about the competitiveness of the Malaysian market with the onset of globalisation and liberalisation. Thus, the positioning of local players and the exchange itself are key issues that will fall to him to take care of as Malaysia Inc reengineers itself.

Those who know him talk about a quiet, capable family man who is willing to put in more hours than anyone else in any project that is worth his while. But he is also willing to hand the reins of control over if he believes they will be in capable hands.

“But it is not easy to win his approval. He has such high standards,” says one exchange employee. “Those who prove their mettle are rewarded — with even more responsibility.”

In his own quiet ways, Azlan can help put the KLSE back prominently on the radar screen of international investors.

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Abdul Rahman Ahmad
Managing director, Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd

Shahril Ridza Ridzuan
Executive director, Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd
They were the surprise corporate appointments of 2001. Although not the first professional managers to be appointed in recent times to head government-linked or controlled companies, their age (accountant Abdul Rahman is 32 and lawyer Shahril Ridza, 30) and the ensuing questions about their level of experience raised eyebrows in corporate Malaysia. Both are also directors of MRCB associate companies Sistem Televisyen Malaysia Bhd (TV3) and New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd (NSTP). In early October, the duo announced a restructuring plan for the MRCB group that is expected to be completed by the middle of next year. The plan has had its equal share of supporters and detractors, and the market is closely watching to see whether these two can get MRCB, TV3 and NSTP back on track. They not only have to solve the debt problems of the group but also fix their operational faults.

If they succeed, it would go a long way towards proving the government was right to instil greater professionalism and to draw a clear line between the ownership and management of companies as part of efforts to usher in a new era for Malaysia Inc. It will also pave the way for more young professionals to be given a shot at managing big corporations.

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Abdul Wahid Omar
Managing director & chief executive officer, United Engineers (M) Bhd
Accountant Wahid is another of the new breed of young, professional bumiputera managers appointed to head large corporations under Malaysia Inc’s new credo. On Oct 1, Wahid was appointed managing director of UEM after a subsidiary of the government’s investment arm Syarikat Danasaham Sdn Bhd made a successful voluntary general offer for the construction and tollways arm of the Renong conglomerate. Two weeks later, UEM was delisted from the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange.

The soft-spoken Wahid, who cut his teeth at Amanah Capital Partners Bhd and Bumiputra Merchant Bankers Bhd, had earlier been tapped to fill the CFO position at Telekom Malaysia Bhd. In his six months as a member of Telekom’s new management team, those who came in contact with him noted his professionalism. “He made no bones about the fact he had a job to do,” said a regional telco analyst. At UEM, he got down to brass tacks immediately, meeting group MDs the Friday after he took office. And as the year winds to a close, UEM has begun to indicate the direction the privatised conglomerate will take.

Has it been a hectic three months? “Two and a half,” he says with a smile. And “very challenging,” he adds. There is more to come.

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Datuk Amirsham A Aziz
Managing director, Malayan Banking Bhd
Since taking over at the helm in 1993, Amirsham has steered the bank on a steady course — despite the last recession, the worst in the country’s history.

Maybank, Malaysia’s largest banking group, has merged with Pacific Bank and PhileoAllied Bank. Going forward, it is envisaged that the bank will again be playing a key role in the industry’s second round of consolidation, an exercise banking analysts describe as inevitable given the impending liberalisation of the financial services sector and hence, greater competition. Maybank is seen as one of the few banks with the muscle to compete in a more open environment — and Amirsham, a performance-oriented, no-nonsense manager, will be counted upon to make sure the banking giant builds on its success. Also, as the country’s biggest bank, it is important for Maybank to take the lead to efficiently, effectively and prudently finance Corporate Malaysia. Its track record thus far has been a sound one.

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T Ananda Krishnan
Tycoon
As a businessman with interests ranging from telecommunications to gaming and power, Ananda Krishnan’s views carry a lot of weight. Aside from his business interests, his close ties to people at the top and his wealth — he’s one of eight wealthiest Indians in the world, coming in at No 490 in this year’s Forbes 500 Billionaire Club with a net worth of US$1 billion — mark him as a man of tremendous influence and power. Hopefully, some of his global exposure will rub off at home in terms of government policy-making and corporate management.

It was his idea to develop KL’s old racing track into what the Kuala Lumpur City Centre is today — home to the world’s tallest towers.

Tipsters are betting that Maxis Communications Bhd, the country’s largest cellular operator which is 70 per cent owned by him, will emerge a winner in the telco shake-out. And Measat, the satellite broadcaster, seems to be coming along well. If these two high-profile businesses of his become roaring and sustained financial successes, it would be a win not only for Ananda but Malaysia Inc as well.

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Datuk Mohamed Azlan Hashim
Chairman, Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange
Azlan became the first non-broker to head the KLSE when he was appointed by the then Minister of Finance to the chair in January 1998.

Naturally the broking community balked at what they regarded as the loss of their seat of power at the exchange (the KLSE is a member-owned exchange).

Since then, the rumours have abounded: that Azlan is on his way out, that he is staying another term, that he is moving on to the Securities Commission. But Azlan himself has maintained a stiff upper-lipped silence, declining to dignify any and all rumours. Today, some would say in the face of huge obstacles, he is still at the helm of the exchange, steering it through some of the most challenging times for the entire stockbroking industry.

The industry is in the throes of a consolidation exercise, which has been going on for two years. The next step will be the demutualisation and eventual listing of the KLSE. And Azlan is playing a key role in both.

He has spoken openly of his concerns about the competitiveness of the Malaysian market with the onset of globalisation and liberalisation. Thus, the positioning of local players and the exchange itself are key issues that will fall to him to take care of as Malaysia Inc reengineers itself.

Those who know him talk about a quiet, capable family man who is willing to put in more hours than anyone else in any project that is worth his while. But he is also willing to hand the reins of control over if he believes they will be in capable hands.

“But it is not easy to win his approval. He has such high standards,” says one exchange employee. “Those who prove their mettle are rewarded — with even more responsibility.”

In his own quiet ways, Azlan can help put the KLSE back prominently on the radar screen of international investors.

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Datuk Dr Jamaludin Jarjis
Chairman, Tenaga Nasional Bhd
With Malaysia Inc moving in the direction of non-political professional managers as opposed to politically connected owner-managers, Jamaludin will probably be the clearest testimony of whether the nexus between politics and business can still be beneficial. As chairman of the country’s largest national utility, he has to meet the objectives of running a commercial entity while ensuring, as a politician, that the interests of consumers, his electorate, are safeguarded. His being a government backbencher (Jamaludin has been Member of Parliament for Rompin for 11 years) means he has good rapport with Tenaga’s main stakeholder — the government — which is seen as making it easier for him to convince the government of his plans for Tenaga. Whether he succeeds in helping to build a stronger commercial entity despite — or because of — his being a politician will serve as one of the more important lessons to be learnt in the remaking of Malaysia Inc. If he succeeds in professionally leading Tenaga to greater heights and balancing returns to shareholders and service to customers, he will be proof that the nexus of politics and business can work for the public good. His status both as politician and corporate manager will go up several notches. But if he fails, critics will have a field day.

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Datuk Lin Yun Ling
Managing director, Gamuda Bhd
Lin helms a diversified group of companies with interests spanning construction, expressway tolling and management, property development, water supply and manufacturing. Although he maintains a low profile, his increasing presence and influence is inevitable. Not only is he fast becoming Klang Valley’s unofficial “highway king”, in the construction fraternity, a major tender is said to be incomplete without the participation of Gamuda. On the utilities front, Gamuda stands out as being one of the early-bird construction companies to make waves in the water sector.

Said to be an astute, driven and no-nonsense businessman who frowns upon taking unnecessary risks, he is certainly taking Gamuda places, not just in Malaysia but overseas as well.

As a major beneficiary of the privatisation programme, it is important that Lin leads Gamuda to greater heights and delivers services to the public at the best price for both consumers and his company and shareholders. His success in doing that will help dispel criticism that privatisation has not been for the public good, but only for the private good.

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Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Ariff
Chief executive officer, Proton
As the man entrusted with the future of Malaysia’s multi-billion ringgit automobile industry, Mahaleel will have to take Proton into the globalised world, and ensure that it grows and flourishes. He has strong opinions on globalisation — “there is no such thing,” he once said in an interview. “There will always be protectionist barriers in some form.”

While Mahaleel tackles head on the issues of globalisation, he is also running the national car company as best he can. And under his stewardship, the company has zoomed ahead in more ways than one.

Among his first moves at Proton was engineering a change in direction, moving the company from being a mere car assembly and stamping plant to becoming a car manufacturer capable of creating and building its own car. Even as the deadline for the Asean Free Trade Area looms, Mahaleel is well aware that the seat he is occupying is the hottest. For Proton stands to lose the most, and along with it, him.

“I’m a patriot,” he once said. Now, against all odds and cynicism, he has got to make Proton viable in a more liberalised auto market. Then he will be more than a patriot — he will be a hero as well.

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Datuk Mohd Nor Yusof
Managing director, Malaysian Airline System Bhd
His appointment in February marked the government’s first move this year to place professional managers in government-controlled or linked companies. The fact that it was Malaysia Airlines made it all the more significant. The privatisation of the national carrier in 1994 was one of the milestones in the history of Malaysia Inc. Then, the government sold a majority stake to Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli, one of the beneficiaries of the policy which had sought to nurture a class of bumiputera entrepreneurs, who took over as chairman of Malaysia Airlines.

Last year, in a move surrounded by controversy, the government paid RM8 per share or close to RM1.8 billion to buy back Tajudin’s 29.09 per cent stake in the airline. Critics railed that the government was bailing out the individual and not the airline.

All that is water under the bridge and ex-banker Mohd Nor and his new management team have moved quickly to re-engineer loss-making Malaysia Airlines, which is saddled by some RM9 billion in debt. The target is to move into the black by 2004. Mohd Nor’s progress in turning around the airline will be closely watched as an indicator of whether the remaking of Malaysia Inc, in particular professional managers taking over from owner-managers, will succeed. Those who know him from his many years running the then Bank of Commerce say he is a quick learner and someone who gets on with the job quietly. They are confident he can succeed.

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Nazir Tun Razak
Chief executive officer & managing director, Commerce International Merchant Bankers Bhd
At 35, Nazir is already one of the best-known bankers in town, and CIMB is regarded as one of the premier banking groups in the country. In its stable is Bumiputera-Commerce Bank, Malaysia’s second largest commercial bank. Many credit Nazir and his dynamism for taking CIMB to the top of its field. Colleagues say he was instrumental in the creation of the equally dynamic and aggressive team at CIMB. He is also seen as being on the cutting edge of the new Corporate Malaysia — moving in the “right” circles and being part of the “new elite” who may be involved with key decision-making processes.

“If Nazir is not actually one of them, he certainly knows enough of these inner-circle people to be influential,” says a long-time associate.

For a while, it looked like Nazir and CIMB were going to corner the best corporate finance deals in the country. CIMB’s client list sported giants such as the Renong group, Malaysia Airlines and Maxis. It is only recently that the competition seems to have returned in the form of RHB Sakura Merchant Bankers. But even as the competition increases, those who know Nazir believe that he has what it takes to keep ahead of the pack. He has risen from behind the shadow of his powerful family to stand on his own. Just ask any merchant banker.

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Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim
Chairman, Renong Bhd Managing director, Khazanah Nasional Bhd
The former senior civil servant now holds powerful positions that are central in the restructuring of Corporate Malaysia. Khazanah, the government’s investment arm, in September succeeded in acquiring 90 per cent of United Engineers (M) Bhd (UEM), thus allowing the government to move forward with its plan to revive the infrastructure company’s ailing parent, Renong Bhd. Sheriff and three others, including Datuk Mohamed Azman Yahya and Abdul Wahid Omar, were appointed to the board of Renong in October following the resignation of nine directors, including Renong’s former executive chairman Tan Sri Halim Saad.

As chairman of Renong and a director of UEM, Sheriff’s long experience in government as well as in various private sector companies will complement that of the young professionals who have been entrusted with the task of running UEM.

As director-general of the Economic Planning Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department and secretary-general of the Finance Ministry during the early to mid-1990s, Sheriff was present at the birth of Malaysia Inc. Now, in the remaking of Malaysia Inc, he has a chance to help put right what has gone wrong.

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Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop
economic adviser to the Prime Minister
Former central banker Nor Mohamed is probably the PM’s closest financial and economic adviser today. Called back from the corporate world to devise the plan to shield the country against currency speculators in 1998, only he and Dr Mahathir were convinced that capital controls could work without inflicting the economic damage that others had feared would happen. The two men were said to have often worked alone in those dark days to come out with the controls and then to convince the Cabinet to go ahead with the unorthodox measures.

Time has proven them right and Nor Mohamed is now the principal adviser to the PM in the remaking and reshaping of Malaysia Inc. He is said to be the person pushing strongly for separating ownership from management in Corporate Malaysia to promote greater professionalism and better corporate governance.

Industry players who work closely with Nor Mohamed say he is open-minded and always eager to get as much feedback as he can on any matter. He is also said to be very quick at making decisions and has zero tolerance for shady deal-making.

There seem to be very few, if any, major deals in the country’s economic and corporate scene today that escape his scrutiny. He appears to be the point man in both policy-making and financial trouble-shooting.

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Tan Sri Othman Yeop
Chairman, Multimedia Development Corp
As chairman of the Multimedia Development Corporation, the one-stop agency set up to help realise Malaysia’s vision of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), former academician Othman is responsible for getting the seven flagship applications of the MSC up and running, and to spur the growth of a new industry — exporting information technology (IT). The seven applications are: smart schools, telehealth, e-government, borderless marketing, worldwide manufacturing hub, research and development cluster, and the Government Multipurpose Card, now renamed MyKad.

Othman is known as a tireless worker, but the public has not seen enough progress on the MSC to judge it a success. He preaches patience but in this Internet world, speed is everything. Success on his part is essential, as the MSC is the lynchpin in Malaysia’s efforts to transform itself from a production-based into a knowledge-based economy, and to move into the crucial next stage of development.

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Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan
executive chairman, Hong Leong Group
At the helm of Hong Leong Malaysia, Quek has set a track record of achieving strong growth in some of his companies. His principal successes have been in air-conditioner maker OYL Industries Bhd, and Hong Kong-based Dao Heng Bank which he sold to Singapore’s DBS Bank group in June this year.

His sale of Dao Heng Bank, via a cash and share swap with the cash portion amounting to about RM11 billion, made headlines. With his wealth and sturdy track record in building a global business (OYL) and technology-based business (chip-maker Malaysian Pacific Industries Bhd), Quek is in a position to make powerful moves.

He is basically successful as a banker and industrialist, rather than in hotels or property development, where he also has business interests, or plantations. Quek and his management run a tight ship in Hong Leong Bank and they were able to extend this expertise to Dao Heng. In industry, Quek started out with tiles, moved on to motorcycles, air-conditioners and then semiconductors.

It is still unclear whether Hong Leong will be allowed to continue to grow its banking business here when the industry consolidates further. There has been market talk of overtures to Public Bank regarding a merger. Eventually, Quek may decide to leave banking which faces competitors that keep growing larger through mergers.

As the Hong Leong group continues to grow and evolve, Quek may be able to find further successes in developing and growing companies with high technology or global attributes, which would also be constructive economic assets for the nation.

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Tan Sri Rashid Hussain
Executive Chairman, Rashid Hussian Bhd
Stockbroker turned banker Rashid is among the few individuals who still control a bank, and one of even fewer individuals to have lent their name to one. He set up Rashid Hussain Securities in 1983. By the early 1990s, Rashid had made an indelible mark in both stockbroking and banking. He was the main driver in the DCB Bank-Kwong Yik Bank merger that resulted in RHB Bank. In June 1999, RHB Bank played the role of white knight when it acquired the beleaguered Sime Bank. Rashid steered the RHB group of companies through the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98, but his biggest challenge wasn’t so much dealing with the effects of the crisis as fighting for anchor bank status for RHB Bank. When the central bank first announced the six anchor banks, RHB Bank wasn’t on the list. It only gained anchor bank status when the list was expanded to 10, following intense lobbying by several bankers.

RHB Bank is currently in talks to merge with Utama Bank. But even without the merger, the RHB banking group will still be the third largest in the country.

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Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz
Minister of International Trade and Industry
Next to the Prime Minister, Rafidah is Malaysia’s top salesperson.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) has been crucial in the realisation of Malaysia’s industrial development programme and Rafidah, who has headed MITI since 1987, has played an instrumental role in attracting foreign investors with her tireless promotion of Malaysia as an investment destination. “She has put enormous energy into the task,” says Nicholas Zefferys, president of the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce. Datuk David Chua, a former student of Rafidah’s and currently deputy secretary-general of the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia, describes her as a “pragmatic, action-oriented minister”.

With China and other economies in the region becoming strong competitors for FDI, Rafidah’s pragmatism and efforts in promoting Malaysia will become even more important. And in the current era of globalisation, the no-nonsense, rapid-fire minister who is admired for her grasp of issues ably represents Malaysia’s interests in the World Trade Organisation, the outcome of which will impact Malaysian corporations and determine the environment in which they operate.

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Tan Sri Mohd Saleh Sulong
Chairman, DRB-Hicom Group
The death of DRB-Hicom supremo Tan Sri Yahaya Ahmad in a tragic helicopter crash on March 3, 1997 catapulted Mohd Saleh, who until then had been comfortable playing No 2 to Yahaya, into the hot seat at the conglomerate. Both men had come together in the early 1980s to establish an auto assembling business via Master-Carriage (M) Sdn Bhd, from which they would piece together an industrial conglomerate with interests spanning auto assembly and distribution, public transport, banking, and infrastructure.

Following the personal loss — both had been partners and friends for decades — Mohd Saleh soon found himself having to steer the group out of the Asian financial crisis. He was forced to undertake massive restructuring and consolidation exercises to salvage the group, including the disposal of the entire 25.8 per cent stake in Proton, a venture that both he and Yahaya had clinched together in the early 1990s.

DRB-Hicom has finally returned to the black after three years of losses. But more challenges are ahead. DRB-Hicom has opted to tie up with Honda to ride the wave of liberalisation in the auto industry. If Mohd Saleh succeeds in pulling if off, it would go a long way in strengthening DRB-Hicom, a major player in a key industry.

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Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary
Executive chairman, Al-Bukhary Foundation
His name does not appear in any of the deals, but Syed Mokhtar is among the new breed of bumiputera businessmen making waves on the local corporate scene. The companies he controls include Impian Teladan Sdn Bhd, which bought a 19.9 per cent stake in Malaysia Mining Corp Bhd last year, and Seaport Terminal (Johor) Sdn Bhd, which controls Johor Port Bhd and Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP). His big break was in 1993 when his 90 per cent-owned Seaport Terminal was awarded the privatisation deal for Johor Port. Two years later, he got another big break when Seaport was granted a build-operate-transfer concession for the new PTP. The concession is for 30 years with an automatic extension of another 30 years, which marks him out as a man to watch in the remaking of Malaysia Inc. His trail of acquisitions include MMC’s buying a 22.7 per cent stake in Malakoff Bhd for RM744 million and the proposed buy of a 50.1 per cent stake in PTP for RM1.9 billion.

Pursuing the spiritual alongside the temporal, he is said to be passionate about Islamic social work, conducted mostly through his foundation. Syed Mokhtar is also building the Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur and the RM70 million Islamic Complex in his home state Kedah.

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Tan Sri Francis Yeoh Sock Ping
Managing director, YTL Corporation Bhd
Yeoh heads an infrastructure development group that is also involved in power generation, hotel and property development and the cement industry. His ability to sniff out business opportunities and his hands-on approach has propelled the YTL group to the forefront of Corporate Malaysia. But he is quick to downplay his achievements, and to share the credit. “I only believe that I am truly blessed to be given an opportunity to lead such a team of fine people and I pray that under my watch, I will not drop the baton,” he says.

Few expect him to. Hopefully, Yeoh, who sits on the Malaysian Business Council which brings together government and the private sector — the embodiment of Malaysia Inc — will continue to provide ideas and input in the drive to remake Malaysia Inc. Not all his ideas have to do with business. He won the support of the Prime Minister for his efforts to create Bintang Walk, the pedestrian mall in downtown Kuala Lumpur that has proven to be a hit with locals and tourists alike. “We vigorously promote art and music as alternative forms of communication and along the way, we get to do Bintang Walk, which is fun. All these lead to a better quality of life for all of us,” he says. Musty gerontocracy, pleurotomy redevelop preblowing dumpish catamount cardiogenic. Lamelliform moderation ureterectasia midline jewelry coldpig yearningly uniswlector! Farmering phylloerythrin suffragette automation gratters subleveling aversive silk roarer breakables.
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