Calls for my resignation ‘highly misplaced’, says Sulaiman

Sulaiman-Mahbob-fgvKUALA LUMPUR: Acting Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) chairman Sulaiman Mahbob has brushed off calls for his resignation by a group calling itself Suara Generasi ke-2 Felda as “highly misplaced”, vowing to execute the tasks mandated to him by the government to turn around the financial performance of the company.

In an interview with Bernama today, he said his key tasks since being appointed acting chairman to replace Isa Samad on June 19, were to restore investor confidence in FGV as a public-listed company whose largest shareholders are the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) and the settlers themselves.

Zulkefli Nordin, the adviser of the group representing second generation Felda settlers, on Monday called on Sulaiman and the board of directors to resign to remove doubts about their integrity in running FGV, one of the world’s largest palm oil producers.

Zulkefli said FGV’s problems were seen to be caused by the board’s interference in administering FGV and that some second generation settlers were worried that FGV’s problems would be blamed on suspended FGV president Zakaria Arshad.

In rebutting the allegations, Sulaiman said: “As a listed company, FGV has to follow corporate governance, rules and regulations.

“FGV must act accordingly and everything must be done to protect shareholders’ interests and all such allegations won’t distract me or derail our plans.”

On June 6, several senior FGV executives were instructed to go on leave following a boardroom tussle between Isa and Zakaria triggered by a delayed payment for a palm oil transaction by Afghan company Safitex to FGV subsidiary Delima Oil Products Sdn Bhd.

“I am hardly one month into my job and the allegations will not distract me. FGV is a public-listed company, therefore I will not allow any fractures on the board.

“Making such allegations is like shooting ourselves in the foot and only paves the way for the share price to decline further,” he added.

When FGV was listed in June 2012, its shares traded at RM4.55 per unit. They have since plunged to between RM1.60 and RM1.70 per share, mainly driven by the floods in Kelantan, as well as the low crude palm oil prices.

Following Sulaiman’s appointment, the share price improved by 4.55% to RM1.84 as investors reacted positively following the change in the company’s top leadership. However, at yesterday’s close, it fell four sen to RM1.65.

Defending the action taken to revive FGV’s fortunes, Sulaiman said: “We are mandated by the shareholders in the annual general meeting and all the resolutions are endorsed by them… shareholders are our higher authority and therefore we have a responsibility towards them.

“And in moving forward, we aim to tackle issues pertaining to foreign labour and productivity of the company. Together with Felda chairman Shahrir Abdul Samad, we want the board to be strong again.”

Sulaiman served the government for 38 years in various capacities including as director-general of the Economic Planning Unit, in the Prime Minister’s Department and as secretary-general of the then domestic trade and consumer affairs ministry.