Tigerair chief quits amid turbulence

Tigerair's (above) chief executive Koay Peng Yen (top right) is stepping down next Monday. His successor is Mr Lee Lik Hsin (bottom right).
Tigerair's (above) chief executive Koay Peng Yen (top right) is stepping down next Monday. His successor is Mr Lee Lik Hsin (bottom right).PHOTOS: BLOOMBERG, LESTER LEDESMA, TIGERTALES, SINGAPORE AIRLINES
Tigerair's (above) chief executive Koay Peng Yen (top right) is stepping down next Monday. His successor is Mr Lee Lik Hsin (bottom right).
Tigerair's (above) chief executive Koay Peng Yen (top right) is stepping down next Monday. His successor is Mr Lee Lik Hsin (bottom right).PHOTOS: BLOOMBERG, LESTER LEDESMA, TIGERTALES, SINGAPORE AIRLINES
Tigerair's (above) chief executive Koay Peng Yen (top right) is stepping down next Monday. His successor is Mr Lee Lik Hsin (bottom right).
Tigerair's (above) chief executive Koay Peng Yen (top right) is stepping down next Monday. His successor is Mr Lee Lik Hsin (bottom right).PHOTOS: BLOOMBERG, LESTER LEDESMA, TIGERTALES, SINGAPORE AIRLINES

Move follows carrier's report of jump in losses; SIA exec to take over reins

Embattled Tiger Airways said its chief executive is stepping down next Monday.

The shock announcement came just six days after the budget carrier reported a sharp increase in losses.

Mr Koay Peng Yen, 48, will stay on the board as an adviser and non-executive director until the annual general meeting on July 31, the firm announced.

He will be replaced by Singapore Airlines (SIA) executive Lee Lik Hsin.

Before joining Tigerair in August 2012, Mr Koay was executive director of shipping-related companies Pacific Carriers and PaxOcean Engineering Group, both under the Kuok Group. Prior to that, he spent 18 years at Neptune Orient Lines in various senior management roles.

In an e-mail statement yesterday, Mr Koay told The Straits Times that turning around the firm is a process, and "not an overnight activity".

"Having laid the groundwork for the turnaround... it is now an appropriate time for me to hand over the reins. I am also glad that the company will be in good hands with Lik Hsin at the helm," he added.

Under Mr Koay, Tigerair attempted to strengthen its Asia presence through its joint ventures but this strategy was reversed recently in a bid to turn its troubled business around.

It divested 60 per cent of Tigerair Australia last year and sold its 40 per cent stake in Tigerair Philippines in March. It is now reassessing its investment in loss- making Indonesian unit Tigerair Mandala.

In a statement yesterday, the low-cost airline said that it had "endeavoured to improve the fortunes of its overseas cubs". "However, turbulence in those markets hampered fledgling carriers from establishing a decisive hold."

Mr Koay's successor, Mr Lee, has been a Tigerair non-executive director since last July. Mr Lee, 43, is president at Singapore Airlines Cargo, a subsidiary of SIA, which is Tigerair's largest shareholder with a 40 per cent stake.

He joined SIA in 1994 and has held a number of key positions, including senior vice-president of corporate planning, regional vice- president for North Asia and vice- president for company planning and fuel.

Tigerair said yesterday that Mr Lee has "served with distinction" on its board and been tested in "demanding assignments" during his time at SIA. "He brings with him a wealth of experience at the senior level in the airline industry," the firm added.

Mr Lee joins Tigerair at what the firm calls "a very difficult time in its history".

Earlier this month, the budget carrier announced losses of $95.5 million for the fourth quarter compared with a $15.4 million loss in the same period last year.

The red ink was largely attributed to $52.4 million in exceptional charges and its share of losses of $21.5 million from associate and joint ventures.

Revenue for the quarter slumped 33 per cent to $161.9 million, partially due to Tigerair Australia ceasing to be a subsidiary in July last year.

Its full-year net loss came in at $223 million, from a loss of $45.4 million the previous year, while revenue fell from $866.2 million to $734 million.

Tigerair announced last week that it would ground eight planes and cut unprofitable flights. Two months ago, it cancelled orders for nine new planes.

The firm's shares fell 8 per cent on Monday after it warned that it might be placed on the Singapore Exchange's watchlist after reporting three consecutive annual losses. Tigerair shares have declined nearly 40 per cent over the past year and are near record lows. The stock closed flat at 40.5 cents yesterday.

teezhuo@sph.com.sg