Temasek’s Ho Says She’s ‘Well’ Following Sabbatical Announcement

Temasek CEO Ho Ching
Ho Ching, Chief Executive Officer of Temasek Holdings Pte, 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. Photographer: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

Ho Ching, chief executive officer of Temasek Holdings Pte, said in a Facebook post that she’s “well” and there shouldn’t be concerns following an announcement Wednesday that she’s taking a three-month sabbatical leave.

Ho, 62, will continue with her board and “specific stewardship” duties during the period, the state-owned investment company said in a statement on its website. Lee Theng Kiat, one of the three presidents at Temasek, will cover her on all normal course of business.

“Just to let you know not to worry as I’m well,” Ho said in the Facebook post on Wednesday in Singapore. “Now is as good a time as any to spend some time on a couple of long standing things which I have wanted to do,” she said, adding she wants to catch up on sleep.

The sabbatical comes after two busy months for Ho, who’s 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 after he was hospitalized for six weeks to treat severe pneumonia.

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.

Bereavement Exhaustion

“It seems she is exhausted from family bereavement,” said Friedrich Wu, an adjunct associate professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “It’s a good time to have a break for her as global equities are all on upward trajectories and I don’t expect major market upsetting events until May or June when Greece’s repayment postponement reaches deadline, or when the Fed contemplates raising interest rates.”

The MSCI World Index climbed 4.8 percent this year, compared with the 2.9 percent gain in 2014. Singapore’s benchmark Straits Times Index added 5.4 percent so far in 2015 and has risen for five straight quarters, the longest winning streak since 2007.

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.

Chip Goodyear

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.

“She is a ‘power woman,’” Wu said. “It seems too early for her retirement.”

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.

“Good team in Temasek,” Ho said in the Facebook post. “Joked with them that I’m testing out what a sabbatical means.”

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