Former top Goldman banker joins Wilmar in dealmaking role

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Wilmar International Ltd., the world's biggest palm-oil processor, has hired former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker Hsin Yue Yong for a dealmaking role.

Ms Yong, who was Goldman's head of Southeast Asia investment banking, joined Wilmar in July as general manager for special projects, the Singapore-based company said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday responding to Bloomberg queries.

The former banker's role is "centered around" strategic development, which also involves mergers and acquisitions, according to the statement. Ms Yong, who's related by marriage to the billionaire Kuok family that controls Wilmar, has about two decades of dealmaking experience, the statement shows.

Wilmar has announced US$3.1 billion (S$4.42 billion) of deals in the past five years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It is China's biggest seller of cooking oil, offering products squeezed from both palm and soybeans under brands including Jin Long Yu.

The company's already dominant position in cooking oil has pushed it to expand in other areas like noodles and raw sugar. Wilmar has bought manufacturers and forged tie-ups throughout Asia to add consumer brands to boost profit margins.

Wilmar closed 1.1 per cent lower at S$2.60 Tuesday in Singapore, taking this year's losses to 20 percent.

Last year, Wilmar teamed with First Pacific Co. for the A$1.32 billion (S$1.31 billion) takeover of Australia's largest baker, Goodman Fielder Ltd. Wilmar, which trades almost half the world's palm oil, said last month its second-quarter net income rose 18 percent as it boosted the profit margin from processing soybeans in China.

Ms Yong, who had been with Goldman Sachs since 1996, decided to leave the investment bank to pursue other opportunities, according to a February internal memo seen by Bloomberg. She is the wife of Jeremy Goon, who is Wilmar's chief sustainability officer, Tuesday's statement shows.

Mr Goon is the nephew of Wilmar Chief Executive Officer Kuok Khoon Hong and the grand nephew of the family patriarch, billionaire Robert Kuok, according to the statement. Robert Kuok is Southeast Asia's richest person with a net worth of US$13.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The Kuok family controls 32 per cent of Wilmar, according to the company.