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Rebranding family name leads YTL to new frontiers

   
Tan Sri (Dr.) Francis Yeoh receiving an award from Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak

NST, November 22, 2007

By Rupa Damodaran

With a great family lineage and business like YTL Corporation Bhd, it was the third generation entrepreneur Tan Sri Francis Yeoh who showed how rebranding a family name can lead to opening new frontiers.

Yeoh, managing director of the company, describes YTL as a stamp and a name with a life of its own.

"We didn't want to personalise one person. The whole culture (of the company) should be broad-based. It is good to lead a YTL company although the values (from the founders) has to be institutionalised," he said in an interview with Business Times.

The process of rebranding the pre-Merdeka business commenced in the 70s through to the 80s, when it was listed in the mid-80s.

"The company has a great history and strong foundation to work towards becoming a strong company," said Yeoh.

Its key businesses are in utilities, high-speed rail, cement manufacturing, construction contracting, property development, hotels and resorts as well as technology incubation.

"The people in the early days, who understood the value of the brand, were able to continually grow the business year-in-year-out in revenue and profits, and to continue to pay dividends. This year's 55 per cent was a record figure," he added.

The company recorded 55 per cent growth in pre-tax profit since it was listed which many considered amazing and which, Yeoh admits, is like a Warren Buffet-kind of track record.

One of the largest companies listed on Bursa Malaysia and, together with a combined market capitalisation of about RM30 billion, YTL was also the first Asian company outside Japan to be listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

With 70 per cent of YTLís business located beyond the shores of Malaysia especially in the utility business, YTL has shown that all the companies in its stable are of world-class.

Wessex Water, its company in the UK was recently named Britain's top water and sewerage company and its various other subsidiaries including its hotels, have won international acclaim for operations and maintenance.

"If you have brands winning world-class awards, then people pay attention to that and it becomes easier to enter new markets," said Yeoh.

Today, it is already present in China with three cement plants while in Singapore; it is also present in the concrete and property business in a big way.

"We have the intellectual capital, and to expand regionally and globally becomes much easier with our brands," he said.

Such opportunities however come with a good measure of risks particularly if the younger generation do not remember the brand or understand the culture.

Thus, Yeoh spends a lot of time with his staff to make sure they understand the company's culture and values.

"That is, the intellectual integrity must be backed by moral integrity. If you do not have that, then you are going to have problems," he added.

YTL is also selective about the markets it chooses to enter and transparency is most important which is why it is present in Singapore, Hong Kong, the UK, the United Arab Emirates and Australia.

"We actually export these YTL values and technical expertise through Malaysia where we train our staff before sending them out," said Yeoh.

The independent power producer which has two gas-fired combined cycle power plants in Paka and Pasir Gudang, has a stake in the power transmission grid for South Australia and a stake in a coal-fired power plant in Indonesia.

Green branding is another area which the company has been linked closely to recently, to which Yeoh quipped: "There are a lot of opportunities in Asia for YTL to do something, with solutions rather than talking about the problem."

"For instance if we clean up the rivers from grade 4 to grade 2 standards, all the beaches would be pristine, which would lead to higher real estate value prices," he said.

Its Starhill mall along Jalan Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur is a brand which Yeoh said is targeted at the top of the pyramid with exclusive brands only.

It has already received an offer to set up a similar mall in Dubai and he expects the doors to open to the public in two years.

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THE OSLO BUSINESS FOR PEACE AWARD

TRANSPARENT COHERENT REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

PERSONAL AND SUSTAINABILITY AWARDS

TAN SRI FRANCIS YEOH'S BIODATA

 
 

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