Singtel CEO Chua Sock Koong to retire on Jan 1; company veteran Yuen Kuan Moon to take over

Ms Chua Sock Koong will retire on Jan 1 as Singtel's group chief executive, with Mr Yuen Kuan Moon taking over the role. PHOTOS: SINGTEL

SINGAPORE - Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, who has been with Singtel since 1993, is set to become its group chief executive in January.

He will be taking over from Ms Chua Sock Koong, 62, who will retire on Jan 1, the Republic's largest telco said in a bourse filing on Thursday (Oct 1).

"With Singtel well-positioned for the future, it is a good time for me to retire," Ms Chua said in the Singtel statement.

Mr Yuen, 53, is currently CEO of Singtel's consumer business in Singapore and its chief digital officer.

"He has risen through the ranks of the company, with leadership positions in marketing, business development and sales, and Telkomsel in Indonesia," Singtel said. Telkomsel is Singtel's regional associate.

Mr Yuen's appointment by the company's board comes after a global search that considered both internal and external candidates for the job, Singtel added.

He has been appointed group CEO-designate and will assume the role of group CEO after Ms Chua retires.

Ms Chua will stay on as senior adviser to company chairman Lee Theng Kiat to help with the leadership transition.

Ms Chua was formerly Singtel International CEO and chief financial officer. She was appointed group CEO in 2007.

"I've seen a few global crises on my watch - the bust, the global financial crisis, the India competition challenges - and I'm proud of how we've weathered those storms and businesses challenges," she said in the statement.

Singtel posted its first net loss of $668 million in the three months to September last year because it had to set aside $1.93 billion for a fine on its Indian associate company, Bharti Airtel.

Mr Yuen told a press briefing on Thursday (Oct 1) that he will be working closely with the board, Ms Chua and his other colleagues to ensure a smooth transition.

He will be meeting Singtel's major customers, the union and the company's various business units heads over the next few months.

The meetings will "help formulate my strategy for taking Singtel into the next phase of development", he said, adding that more details will be released in time.

"This is an exciting juncture, with 5G and digitalisation changing the game, not just for the telecoms sector, but for enterprises across all industries," Mr Yuen said.

Singtel chairman Mr Lee said Mr Yuen was chosen because he is a "known entity (who) has been with the company since the very beginning of his career".

"He has exhibited an ability to work at different segments of the entire business of the Singtel group... He has a good appreciation of what needs to be done," he added.

Mr Yuen holds a First Class Honours degree in engineering from the University of Western Australia and a Master of Science in management from Stanford University.

The search to fill Ms Chua's shoes started a year ago.

Singtel's succession plans come as it struggles to grow its business amid Covid-19 and intensifying competition in the industry. Mr Yuen's task will be to increase the company's profitability.

The telco posted a 24.2 per cent drop in its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to $897 million for the three months to June this year. This is down from $1.18 billion from a year ago.

Singtel has been trying to grow its business with Dash, its e-wallet, and it has also applied for a full digital banking licence with Grab. Last month (September), it launched 5G trial services in Singapore, the second telco after StarHub to allow consumers to surf on a faster mobile network.

Singtel shares rose five cents or 2.4 per cent at $2.17 as of 10:48am on Thursday, after the announcement. The Straits Times Index was up 1.45 per cent at the same time.

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