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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lee to quit as Country Heights MD

TAN SRI Lee Kim Yew said he will quit his post as group managing director of Country Heights Holdings Bhd, but denied that he was selling his shares in the property company.

"That is not true. I'm not leaving. I'm not selling off my shares. In fact, I have been accumulating shares of Country Heights," he told Business Times in a telephone interview yesterday.

Lee, who founded Country Heights, was responding to a recent news report that said he may relinquish his executive role in the group following an internal restructuring exercise that is under way.

The report had said that Lee planned to concentrate on running his privately-held and profitable companies involved in property development and oil palm plantations.

"My shareholding is around 46 per cent and I'm still a board member. There would be a change of management, a change for the better," he said.

Lee said that in the interest of corporate governance, it was better to leave the daily operations of Country Heights to professionals.

"I will leave it to the new team to do what is best for Country Heights. As the biggest shareholder, I'm optimistic of their capability," he said.

Lee added that Country Heights' businesses will be re-categorised into hospitality, development and property, and the three divisions will have their respective chief executive officers reporting to the group managing director.

Country Heights has hired recruitment firm Korn Ferry to help it find a group managing director.

Analysts were not surprised that Lee is relinquishing the daily operations to professionals to concentrate on his privately-held companies.

"Country Heights has slipped off the radar screens of many investors for a long time. If you exclude the one-off gain from the sale of its shopping centre last year, you can see that the group is not making money," an analyst with a foreign research house said.

Country Heights has seen profits decline from RM12.44 million in 2003 to RM10.87 million in 2004 and RM6.66 million in 2005.

It fell into the red in 2006 with a net loss of RM32.69 million.

Last year, it posted an unaudited net profit of RM107.94 million, thanks to an estimated gain of RM102 million from the sale of the Mines Shopping Fair to Singapore's CapitaLand Ltd for RM432 million cash.

By New Straits Times (Business Times)

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