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People, Companies and Sectors to watch in 2007 - YTL Corporation, full speed ahead

   
Tan Sri (Dr) Francis Yeoh, Managing Director, YTL Corp Bhd

Malaysian Business Magazine, January 2007 issue

By Joanna Sze

CHARISMATIC billionaire Tan Sri Francis Yeoh Sock Ping is one who does not do things by halves, thanks perhaps to his late wife, Puan Sri Rosaline Yeoh, who passed away in August last year. As he once said of her, 'She is someone who says if something has to be done, it has to be done well or not at all.' This has been his guiding principle in business, as well as life.

Take wholly owned Wessex Water, for example. The utility company, which YTL acquired in a headline-grabbing feat in 2002, was recently named Britain's top water and Sewerage Company, according to a report by the United Kingdom's Water Services Regulation Authority.

In June last year, Yeoh was conferred the Honorary CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in recognition of his substantial contribution to economic relations between Malaysia and the United Kingdom, and to the UK economy.

And just two months back, YTL Corporation was ranked fourth on the list of the most admired companies in Malaysia, in The Wall Street Journal Asia (WSJA)'s annual survey. The company also reported record net profits for its latest financial year ended June 30, 2006.

Coming into the New Year, Yeoh is excitedly optimistic about the group's business prospects, especially since he's expecting his share of government contracts (worth some RMl.6 billion) under the Ninth Malaysian Plan (9MP). After a slowdown in the construction sector in recent years, Yeoh believes that things are set to take off again, auguring well for the group's cement and construction arms.

But besides his slice of the local pie, Yeoh is actively scouring abroad for a bigger cake. Which is understandable, as YTL's overseas operations contribute about 70% to its bottom line, with its utility operations in the UK, Australia and Indonesia as key drivers.

YTL, the third-largest power producer in Malaysia, had already bagged a 35% stake in PT Jawa Power, Indonesia's second biggest private power producer, two years ago. His next target is Singapore -Yeoh has indicated his keen interest to bid for the power plants that state-owned investment company Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd may put up for sale.

One can expect more action from the group in the island republic. Having won a bid last year to build 15 resort residences under the US$100 million Lakefront Collection in Sentosa Cove, on Sentosa Island, Yeoh is eager to further capitalise on the buoyant Singapore economy.

YTL already holds a 21% stake in Jurong Cement Ltd and is considering building a Starhill Gallery in the Lion City. The Lakefront Collection, to be launched early this year and scheduled for completion in two years, marks YTL's maiden foray into property development in Singapore. And in what can be seen as a move to further seal his commitment to his investments, Yeoh has proposed a RM8 billion high-speed rail link that will transport commuters 300km from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore in just 90 minutes.

If approved, the bullet train, which would take about five years to materialise, would be the largest project launched on a private finance initiative, as encouraged under the 9MP. At a recent analyst briefing, Yeoh seemed confident of bagging the project, which would add some RM192 million in construction profits to YTL's coffers in 2008.

With his grand plans and vision, Yeoh is set to move full-speed ahead into 2007. One can only hope to keep up.

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