Sime Darby: Its time to move on and forward

The acting Group CEO of the largest plc in Malaysia Sime Darby Bhd. Dato’ Azhar Abdul Hamid met the press and analysts to announce the third quarter pre-audited results of their financial year on Thursday. After making adjustments and provisions of RM 964 million to all the financial scandals which now out in the open, Sime Darby recorded RM 277.5 million loss for the period. The value of net assets per share dropped from RM 3.56 to RM 3.49.

That is expected as Sime Darby board of directors (BOD) announced the much talked about losses from scandalous projects, Bakun, Qatar Project and Maersk Oil Qatar and the summary ‘dismissal’ of Group CEO Dato’ Seri Zubir Mursyid 12 days ago.

Azhar the Sime Darby Plantations boss, now acting Group CEO

In the session to meet analyst on Thursday evening,  Azhar spoke about on what actions to be taken up next. Sime Darby BOD complained that they were ‘misled’ by ‘management’ (Zubir) on the three scandalous projects all these while as being, “Cost overrun and ‘variation order’ “. New measures are now being taken on the reporting to the BOD. Two ex-officio BOD members the Group COO and Group CFO would now accompany the Group CEO in BOD. This ‘Troika’ will now have more freedom to report to the BOD on the latest info and take any questions. Of course more tighter controls, which include BOD members sit in one of the five divisions’ committee set up to monitor progress.

The bantering that Sime Darby went these past two weeks will be a really good lesson to learn. As business managers, the BOD and management now are compelled to be very vigilant. The confidence of the stake holders is pertinent to ensure that Sime Darby is allowed to progress and more importantly venture into business operations. Then again, ventures coupled with good strategy and corporate governance is the only way to sustain growth.

In a private meeting after announcing the third quarter results yesterday, Azhar was asked what would be his plan to drive Sime Darby forward, if he is being confirmed at the Group CEO’s job. He would like to drive Sime Darby forward more aggressively and bring much better values for the share holders. For one, he wants to double Sime Darby’s turnover and net income by 100% within 5 years, an ambitious steady growth of 20% per year.

“Why not? We have to aim to achieve”.

This is very ambitious. The fundamentals look convincing. When the global capital market shows positive recovery, Sime Darby would eventually go uptrend. Then again it is all about the numbers. The strong cash position will ensure that all activities could be continued to progress upwards and expectation of the stakeholders are met.

The Group which rely 70% of their income activities from plantations already almost achieving the 1 million hectares land bank target soon. This include ‘greenfields’ abroad, which include 200,000 in Liberia. Within five years, all of these estates would be ready to produce palm oil and making Sime Darby the largest producer in the world. The fact that the current ‘Troika’ comprises of accountants all from plantations background shows how serious they are in focusing on making the Group work.

“We have to balance on our plantation projects. ‘Brownfields’ could be pricey but at the right price, it will bring almost immediate returns. Sometimes we have to sacrifice profits now for bigger profits after five years. That is why we need a good strategy and execution planning”.

Growth is also set on the motor, industrial and properties divisions. The motor division is set to be a major player. Being the largest property developer  in the country, they now aspire to be the best with innovative products and probably significantly change the Malaysian home style and home dwellers behaviour and lifestyle. “The we will now let home buyers tell us what they want in their homes”.

On the re-development of KLGCC, which upgrade and renovation works which started from a planned budget of RM 80 million and now going above RM 200 million,  he justified by stating “We have to offer a golf resort at that level. Now that we have developed the product, its time to sell. Kuala Lumpur needs a golf resort of this stature”.

Azhar would want the managers with Sime Darby to deplore all resources available such capital, processes and market clout to grab business opportunities “We want them to be ‘hungry’ and entrepreneurial in their ventures. This is how we can achieve growth and bring value for the shareholders”.

When talking about new areas that Sime Darby should be venturing into, he said that the conglomerate which merged in the end of 2007 from three plantations conglomerate had already been involved with ‘capital intensive investments’. “We already have too many of these ventures. We should be looking into new areas such as ‘negative capital’ business activities”. It was obvious that he was talking about retail and hypermarkets and there is tremendous growth for the consumer driven cash business. “There are ready markets and consumers”.

It is obvious that whilst all the investigations is ongoing to determine what actually happened and responsible parties be identified, Sime Darby should be charting its course on full steam on recovery and serve the interest of the stakeholders. “We cannot undo what have been done. We now should focus on realising the full value what we can offer, especially being a true Malaysian global conglomerate”.

Azhar is well aware of PM Dato’ Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak’s bold New Economic Model of making Malaysia into a high value economy. Realising the full potential and aiming to reach a RM 85-90 billion turnover level by 2015 is his way of translating the courageous plan to move Malaysia forward. When asked about the ‘minimum wage’ being proposed, he said that Sime Darby already paying between RM 1,300-1,600 per plantation worker a month, which include productivity incentives. “Yes, this will bring our cost slightly up but we expect productivity. We have to be realistic on our cost of production, taking in the inflationary factors”.

This ‘value proposition’ is refreshing. No doubt Azhar is new at this, doing it for the Group. However, we are confident that he learn fast. Sime Darby as Group now need to come together and work as a formidable team. He seems to be  open to listen and accept new and innovative ideas, including bringing in fresh personalities from outside. He is even open enough to engage new media, which include bloggers, which we find very refreshing.

“Our core values and philosophy remain the same. Our dividend policy is still at 50%”, is very comforting  to learn from the person who is at the helm and on top of things, despite a lot obstacles in the way and it is not the best way to take over a steaming ship.

It seems Azhar knows exactly what he wants to do, where he is going, how to get there soon, the ability to realise the full potential of Sime Darby workforce and human capital and realistically understand the limit of all the Group’s resources. Its time to move on and go forward. 8 million ASB and ASN unit trust schemes are dependent on Sime Darby Bhd. going the right way and making the right decisions.

*Updated 0830am

Published in: on May 28, 2010 at 01:12  Comments (10)  

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. While it is good to adopt a move-on approach, I hope those who are responsible are made accountable for the huge losses. Does not matter whether they are employees or Ministers. And it better be soon. But again this is Malaysia. I may well be dreaming.

  2. And good luck to Azhar. My best wishes and prayer for his success, there will be time when he will need both.

  3. It is very easy to talk without having done anything yet……

    aims of doubling things within five years do not seem to be founded in any substance or fact……….

    suggests that the new man too may not be any better than his predecessors

    chances are very good that there will be more setbacks for Sime before the decade is out!

  4. Anything is possible if the person have the determination and passion to do it.

  5. Salams

    Cost over Run! Other similar company doing the same type of business using cheaper materials are making tons of profit!

    MACC please dig deeper.


  6. […] of ‘greenfield’), being the largest producer of palm oil crude in the world. However, Azhar has plans for the Group. A master of producing palm oil in market conditions without having the luxury of direct Government […]

  7. […] The effectiveness of Bakke to do what is expected for him to do and follow through the programs has now becoming doubtful. He is 56 years old (on the retiring leg) as compared to Azhar who is seven years younger and the latter is thought to be more open for new ideas and getting things done. Nothing significant Bakke demonstrated as the Felda and Tabung Haji Boss where else we in bloggosphere already learnt of Azhar’s ambitious but calculated with risk to double Sime Darby’s performance and result…. […]

  8. […] the man who was acting on his behalf. We don’t know what Bakke’s plans are, unlike Azhar who presented his intentions even to PM […]

  9. […] Bakke and his executives are out to correct all the wrongs that have substantially damaged Sime Darby’s image recently. They are bullish with the growth that they can generate and confident that Sime Darby is able to double its take within five years time. […]

  10. […] President of Plantations. Musa bulldozed his way to ensure that Dass got the job the moment that he got Dato’ Azhar Abdul Hamid out of the picture, by “promoting” him to the Acting CEO’s post when it is clear the […]

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