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Singtel’s next CEO ready for new opportunities once virus slows

·2-min read
A woman using a mobile phone walks behind a Singtel signage at their head office in Singapore February 11, 2016. Singtel, Southeast Asia's biggest telecommunications operator, posted a net profit of S$954 million ($687 million) for the three months ended December, compared with S$970 million a year ago.  REUTERS/Edgar Su

By Abhishek Vishnoi

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. named Yuen Kuan Moon as group chief executive officer to succeed Chua Sock Koong, who will retire on January 1 after more than three decades with Southeast Asia’s biggest telecom operator.

Yuen, currently the company’s Chief Digital Officer as well as the CEO of its Singapore consumer business, was appointed after a global search that considered both internal and external candidates for the job, the company said. Yuen, who joined the operator in 1993, has focused on pursuing growth through digital transformation.

“One bright spot is adoption of digitalisation,” including in the enterprise and consumer sectors, Yuen said in a media briefing on Thursday. “We will be ready to take on the new opportunities” once the pandemic slows down, he added.

His appointment comes as the coronavirus pandemic has crimped mobile service revenue for some companies in the sector, while accelerating the use of technology and data across the world, with millions of people working online from their homes. Singtel plans to introduce a standalone 5G network next year, while it has also partnered with Grab Holdings Inc. to bid for a full digital banking license in the city-state.

Intensifying Competition

Singtel, which gets more than half its revenue outside Singapore, has been facing intensifying competition in overseas markets, where it has invested in operators including Bharti Airtel Ltd. in India and Australia-based Optus.

The company’s net income dropped to S$1.08 billion ($792 billion), the lowest since 1993, in the year ended March. Its share price has declined 35% this year and fell to its lowest level since the global financial crisis last month. It rose as much as 3.3% on Thursday, the most in almost four months, outpacing gains in the country’s benchmark stock index.

With Chua’s exit, Singapore will lose one of its most prominent top female executives. Under her leadership, the company stepped up its expansion across the region and pushed into digital businesses such as cloud and cyber security as well as digital marketing.

Yuen is likely to prefer growing the business without acquisitions, Citigroup Inc.’s analysts Arthur Pineda and Hussaini Saifee wrote in a note after his promotion was announced. Irrational aggressive spending and price wars are also unlikely to happen under his tenure, they wrote.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.