Temasek Holdings Pte appointed former World Bank President Robert Zoellick to its board of directors as Singapore’s state-owned investment company looks to start its first office in the U.S.
Zoellick, 60, will take up the position from Aug. 15, Temasek said in a statement on its website today. Zoellick was president of the World Bank from July 2007 through June last year and also served as the U.S. trade representative in 2001 to 2005, during which America signed a free-trade agreement with Singapore, its first in Asia.
“Zoellick is probably the most high-profile person that Temasek has engaged and that says a lot about their global ambitions,” said Wai Ho Leong, an economist at Barclays Plc in Singapore. “It’s potentially significant, depending on what they do with that. It’s extending their feelers, at the very least, in the U.S. space.”
Temasek’s investments in North America and Europe make up a bigger part of its holdings, rising to 12 percent of its S$215 billion ($169 billion) portfolio at the end of March, from 11 percent a year earlier. Chief Executive Officer Ho Ching said last month that she sees “increasing opportunities” in the two markets and is setting up offices in New York and London to support its investments.
In the U.S., Temasek is the biggest investor in Level 3 Communications Inc., which runs a network that helps carry telecommunications traffic, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It also owns stakes in Facebook Inc., the world’s largest social-networking site, and Mosaic Co., the second-largest North American potash producer, according to the data.
The announcement came as former minister Lim Boon Heng takes over from S. Dhanabalan as Temasek’s chairman today. The state-owned company may add more foreigners to its board, the Straits Times newspaper had cited Dhanabalan as saying.
Zoellick’s appointment “comes at an opportune time, as Temasek sets out to establish its first U.S. office in the near future,” Lim said in the statement. “Bob’s insights will be especially helpful as we continue to explore opportunities in U.S.A, Europe and also in the various growth markets.”
The value of Temasek’s holdings increased by 8.6 percent to a record in the year ended March 31, the investment company said in its annual report on July 4. Total shareholder return, which includes dividends, widened to 8.9 percent from 1.5 percent in the previous year.