Temasek setting up new groups to explore AI and blockchain deals

Temasek is creating so-called "experimental pods" to focus on artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies, alongside other organisational changes that took effect in Oct 1, 2018.
Temasek is creating so-called "experimental pods" to focus on artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies, alongside other organisational changes that took effect in Oct 1, 2018.PHOTO: TEMASEK HOLDINGS

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Temasek, Singapore's state investment firm, is setting up new groups to explore opportunities in artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies.

Temasek is creating so-called "experimental pods" to focus on these two areas, which it sees as long-term trends impacting multiple industries and geographies, according to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg. Mr Chia Song Hwee, the chief operating officer of key management arm Temasek International, will oversee the new groups.

The strategy was announced alongside other organisational changes that took effect on Oct 1, the memo shows. A spokesman for Temasek, which manages $308 billion, confirmed the contents.

Temasek participated in a US$600 million (S$824 million) series C funding round in April for China's SenseTime Group, now the world's most valuable AI start-up. Temasek helped lead a series A round in June for London-based Eigen Technologies, which automates the extraction of unstructured data. In blockchain, Temasek invested in R3, backed by a group of banks seeking to bring distributed ledger technology to their operations.

"We have been expanding our business coverage and geographic footprint over the past few years," the Temasek spokesman said in an e-mailed response to Bloomberg queries. "As our operating environment evolves, our focus is on remaining nimble and well-positioned to capture opportunities that deliver sustainable value over the long term."

Temasek is also setting up a new Strategic Initiatives unit, seeking greater agility for opportunistic deals requiring fast turnaround and senior-level assessment, according to the memo. The unit, which can pull in resources from other parts of Temasek, will be led by Mr Tan Chong Lee, who is head of Europe, Middle East and Africa as well as South-east Asia.

"As the investment landscape becomes more competitive and complex, we are now seeing more situations where we would benefit from collaboration and specialised capabilities wider than our traditional sector and market team approach," Temasek wrote in the memo.

Mr Chia will work with Mr Lee Theng Kiat, Temasek International's deputy chairman and chief executive officer, and deputy CEO Dilhan Pillay as the firm's collective leadership, according to the memo. Temasek said it has identified the Americas, China, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, India and South-east Asia as "investment markets" where it is actively doing deals and allocating capital.

The firm sees Japan, Korea, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand as "engagement markets" where it will primarily focus on institutional network building, the memo shows.