E&O Minority Shareholders grill the Managing Director


ECM fails in E&O board bid

By Zaidi Isham Ismail

Kuala Lumpur: Eastern & Oriental Bhd's (E&O) shareholders voted against having two new directors nominated by ECM Libra Financial Group Bhd in a marathon meeting yesterday.

The six-hour meeting started with minority shareholders taking the chance to grill E&O managing director Datuk Terry Tham Ka Hon on his share sale with Sime Darby Bhd.

A minority shareholder told Business Times that the initial part of the meeting were mainly questions from minorities for Tham.

"They wanted to know, among others, why he didn't insist on a general offer. He said since the matter is under investigation, he cannot say much," the shareholder said.

The Minority Shareholder Watchdog Group (MSWG) confirmed that these were among the questions raised.

"Generally, many minority shareholders as well as MSWG were not satisfied with the replies given to the questions raised at the meeting," the MSWG said in a statement.

The media was not allowed to enter the meeting, in which lawyers Mahadzir Azizan and Leong Kam Weng, nominees of ECM, introduced themselves. But they failed to win the seats after voting was carried out by poll.

E&O deputy managing director Eric Chan Kok Leong said 75 per cent voted against the election of Mahadzir and Leong, while the remaining 25 per cent voted for. Some 60 per cent of E&O shareholders turned up.

"Sime Darby has not nominated any representation to the board. We haven't had our first meeting yet but we plan to meet in October to discuss the next plan of action," Chan told reporters after the meeting.

Analysts expected the meeting to be emotionally charged as shareholders did not enjoy the same premium paid by Sime Darby to buy a 30 per cent stake in the Penang-based property company.

Sime Darby paid RM2.30 a share, a 60 per cent premium to the market price then.

The sellers were Tham, Singapore's GK Goh Holdings Ltd and Tan Sri Wan Azmi Wan Hamzah. Sime Darby has defended the deal, saying it may do so in the future.

ECM Libra, an investment bank, holds some 6.42 per cent of E&O.

Chan described the mood of shareholders as high in energy and excited to meet the management.

However, he sidestepped questions on more details of the Sime Darby-E&O collaboration. He said shareholders were seeking clarity on the collaboration during the meeting and did not elaborate.

Chan also does not know why ECM Libra decided to seek representation on the board.

For future plans, Chan said the group is focused on promoting E&O's brand to sustain growth for the long term.

On its joint venture with subsidiaries of Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd to develop a township in Iskandar Malaysia, Chan said the masterplan has been approved but it will be revised by both parties one more time.

"We will resubmit in January 2012 and expect another six months for it to be reviewed by the authorities," said Chan.