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Keppel Names Loh CEO From January Amid Rising China Competition

Keppel Corp., the world’s biggest oil-rig maker, said Loh Chin Hua will become its chief executive officer next year as Choo Chiau Beng retires after spending 42 years at the company.

Choo, 65, will become a senior adviser to Keppel’s board, the Singapore-based company said in a statement today. Loh is currently the chief financial officer. Keppel’s net income fell to S$346.8 million ($274 million) in the three months through June from S$520.9 million a year earlier, it said in a separate statement.

The new CEO will face a challenge to boost orders and profit amid global economic uncertainties and rising competition. Prices for rigs are under pressure as shipbuilders in China have forayed into offshore business in a bid to offset slumping demand for vessels.

“The path ahead will be a challenging one, with the anemic global economy, unabated policy headwinds and keen competition,” Choo said in the statement. “Mounting competition from Korean and Chinese yards continues to suppress prices and margins for newbuild rigs.”

Keppel shares rose 0.2 percent to close at S$10.90 in Singapore, headed for the biggest weekly gain since the week of Nov. 23. The stock has advanced 1.7 percent this year, compared with the 1.6 percent gain in the benchmark Straits Times Index.

Choo became CEO in 2009 after joining Keppel Shipyard as a Ship Repair Management Trainee in 1971, according to the company’s website.

Loh will become the CEO from Jan. 1, according to the statement.

“We will continue to execute well and see what opportunities are there for Keppel,” Loh, 52, said today, when asked if the company’s focus will change once he becomes CEO. “We do see over the next few years, we will invest in our core business of offshore. We have to build our edge and whatever distance we have, we will continue to maintain that gap.”

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