Temasek CEO Ho Ching Takes Sabbatical Leave for Three Months

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Temasek CEO Ho Ching
Ho Ching, Chief Executive Officer of Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd. Photographer: Charles Pertwee/Bloomberg

Ho Ching, chief executive officer of Temasek Holdings Pte, will be on sabbatical leave for three months, the Singapore state-owned investment firm said in a statement on its website.

Ho will continue with her board and “specific stewardship” duties, according to the statement. Lee Theng Kiat, one of the three presidents at Temasek, will cover her on all normal course of business.

Ho, 62, is married to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He had surgery on Feb. 16 after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and is expected to make a full recovery. Lee’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, who was the country’s first prime minister, died on March 23 at 91.

“Given what recently happened in her family, it seems that she wants to take a break,” said Nicholas Teo, a Singapore-based analyst at CMC Markets.

The elder Lee’s death drew more than 100,000 people who lined the streets in pouring rain to bid farewell on March 29, capping a week of mourning where more than a million people waited for as long as 10 hours to pay tribute to him at Parliament House and other sites. Ho joined her husband during the week to attend to dignitaries, which included Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Temasek’s Transformation

Ho joined Temasek in 2002 as executive director and was appointed chief executive officer in 2004. She has overseen the firm’s transformation from a passive holder of stakes in government-controlled firms to an investor with more than two-thirds of underlying assets abroad.

The investment firm sought a successor to Ho and hired former BHP Billiton Ltd. head Charles “Chip” Goodyear as CEO designate in early 2009. Within months, Temasek and Goodyear parted ways because of differences over strategy.

“With its steady performance and a solid staff, Temasek is sailing smoothly at the moment,” Teo said. “I don’t see the break as a sign of her stepping down.”

Temasek, which is owned by the Ministry of Finance, reported a total shareholder return of 1.5 percent for the 12 months ended March 31, 2014, down from 8.9 percent in the previous year and an average 16 percent a year since its inception in 1974. Its assets rose to a record S$223 billion ($163 billion), helped by a S$5 billion capital injection from the government.

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