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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tong quits UEM board to ‘focus on family, business’

PETALING JAYA: Datuk Tong Kooi Ong, synonymous with the Sunrise property brand, will not have a role in UEM Land Holdings Bhd from the beginning of next year when his resignation from the board takes effect.

According to a stock exchange filing by the company, Tong, 53, is quitting his position as a director “to focus more time on his family and own business.” He was appointed to the board in late February 2011.

He was formerly the single-largest shareholder in Sunrise Bhd, but sold his 25% stake in the property developer synomymous with the Mont'Kiara neighbourhood in late December 2010 via a deal in which he received 2.8 redeemable convertible preference shares (RCPS) for every Sunrise share.

UEM Land had made an RM1.39bil offer for Sunrise in November 2010 at RM2.80 per share via a share swap or by the issuance of the RCPS.

The RCPS can be converted into UEM Land shares at any time within two years of the issue date at RM2.30 per share. The RCPS mature on Jan 4 next year but, at present, nobody knows for sure whether Tong has converted his RCPS.

UEM Land shares closed one sen up at RM2.12. Year-to-date, the share price has fallen 10.92%.

An equity research head of a local investment bank told StarBiz that Tong's departure from the company would have some implications. “While not unexpected, this will have some negative implications as UEM Land will not have the benefit of his expertise,” he pointed out.

Assuming that Tong has converted his RCPS into shares, another analyst said there was no urgency for him to dump his shares as some in the market had speculated.

“There's no urgency for him to sell his shares since UEM Land still has some 8,000 acres undeveloped in Nusajaya. These assets aren't going anywhere,” he argued.

Nevertheless, the research head said with the departure of Tong, UEM Land might find some of the pressure to achieve certain goals easing off, which might not be to the advantage of the company.

“He is known for imposing pressure to achieve quite high targets. Now it will depend on how much of the Sunrise culture has grafted itself on the company,” he added.

He said Tong could be credited with Gerbang Nusajaya, an RM18bil, 4,500-acre project envisioned as the gateway to Iskandar Malaysia for those entering from Singapore.

Recently, UEM Land partnered Ascendas Land International Pte Ltd to develop an RM3.7bil, 210-acre integrated eco-friendly tech park in Gerbang Nusajaya.

“This project will accelerate development in Nusajaya because it will bring in more people and activity, which is what the region needs,” he said.

Tong, a stockbroker turned banker, emerged as the second-largest shareholder in Singapore-listed paper product manufacturer UPP Holdings Ltd in early March.

The latest filings shows he has a direct 26.90% stake in the company. Tong was appointed to the board and became chief executive officer in May.

There has been speculation that UPP would be used as an investment vehicle in the South-East Asia and particularly Myanmar.

Tong also helms the board of Toronto-listed Taiga Building Products Ltd and owns media company The Edge Communications Sdn Bhd as well as The Edge Publishing Pte Ltd in Singapore.

By The Star

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