‘EPF right not to invest in FGV’

Zakaria-Arshad-epf-fgvPETALING JAYA: Suspended Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) president and chief executive officer Zakaria Arshad said it would be hard for any investor to put funds into a company that does not know where it is heading.

Zakaria said in the case of FGV, an institutional investor like the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) will not invest further because the investor does not believe in the current leadership anymore.

He was responding to EPF chief executive officer (CEO) Shahril Ridza Ridzuan’s comment at the InvestMalaysia 2017 conference that the fund would not be putting any more money into FGV as “it was a difficult task to spend so much time to try and change companies when they refuse to change”.

Shahril had also been reported as saying that it would be difficult for FGV to turn around its business under its current leadership.

On Dec 22 last year, EPF announced that it had ceased to be a shareholder in FGV after “gradually selling down” its stake.

EPF assured its members that it practises high standards of corporate governance in its investments, with robust policies on risk control and asset allocation.

EPF was one of the cornerstone investors in FGV’s public listing in 2012.

Among the other major shareholders in FGV currently are Lembaga Tabung Haji, Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan) and the Pahang state government.

Zakaria said prior to his leave of absence from office on June 6, he had a few meetings with the EPF CEO, who had expressed EPF’s intention to invest further with FGV.

“EPF had favoured my plan to focus on FGV’s core plantation business as it would reduce our production cost, increase our overall productivity and maintain our integrity as a company,” he told FMT.

“Shahril told me that my predecessor in FGV was lacking in transparency as proposals were not discussed openly with investors. And now, of course, it’s harder for them to continue with FGV because they don’t know where the company is heading.”

However, Zakaria refused to comment more on the subject as he was still under investigation pending a probe of certain deals under Delima Oil Products Sdn Bhd, which is a subsidiary of FGV.

Zakaria was appointed FGV group president and CEO in April last year, taking over from Mohd Emir Mavani Abdullah who had helmed the company since July 2013.

‘FGV lacking leadership, integrity’

Meanwhile, Suara Generasi Ke-2 Felda adviser Zulkefli Nordin concurred with Zakaria’s opinion on FGV lacking leadership with its newly-appointed acting chairman, Sulaiman Mahbob.

“We are disappointed with Sulaiman still retaining all the existing board members in FGV,” Zulkefli told FMT.

He said if there is no movement to clean up the board, there would be many who will question FGV’s integrity, which in turn will also affect the confidence of investors in the company.

“So, I wouldn’t question EPF for deciding not to continue investing with FGV because of the leadership. They know better,” he said.

On June 6, Zakaria and three other FGV senior executives were asked to take indefinite leave of absence, which FGV non-executive chairman Mohd Isa Abdul Samad said was a decision made by the entire board.

The other three senior executives were FGV chief financial officer Ahmad Tifli Mohd Talha, FGV Trading chief executive officer Ahmad Salman Omar and Delima Oil Products senior general manager Kamarzaman Abd Karim.

The board’s decision came a day after Zakaria had been told to resign by Isa following a series of board meetings since May 31 concerning delayed payments owed to Delima Oil by Safitex, an Afghan company with an array of businesses and headquartered in Dubai.

Following his suspension, Zakaria urged the MACC to investigate allegations of improprieties in FGV and asked the commission to probe the parties involved.

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