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27 August 2009

Singapore: Temasek disclosures are based on ‘principled approach’

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Singapore’s Ministry of Finance (MOF), in response to a recent editorial in Wall Street Journal Asia, said the Singapore government adopts a principled approach in its disclosures on Temasek Holdings and does not just reveal what it deems acceptable, the city-state’s daily the Straits Times reported.

MOF's reply, which was published in Wednesday's Journal, said the principle is that the government will disclose “all relevant information Singaporeans need to judge Temasek's performance as a long-term investor, favourable or otherwise”.

It added that it uses this principle when deciding what it discloses on Temasek, and not merely “what it deems acceptable”.

In its report Wednesday, Wall Street Journal Asia noted that Temasek is wholly owned by Singapore's Ministry of Finance, and considers its portfolio companies to be "stakeholders."

Despite the government being its sole shareholder, Temasek doesn't consider itself to be a sovereign-wealth fund. Temasek officials insist its goals are primarily financial rather than to support Singapore government policy, although Singaporean companies make up a substantial portion of its portfolio.

In its revised charter, Temasek is defined as an investment company, managed on commercial principles to create and deliver sustainable long-term value for its stakeholders.

It dropped a reference from its previous charter, published in 2002, that said Temasek was a company that manages the government's investments in companies for the long-term benefit of Singapore.

Earlier this year, Temasek hired former BHP Billiton Chief Executive Charles Goodyear to succeed current Chief Executive Ho Ching, the wife of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

That plan to bring in the US-born executive was nixed in July when Temasek said the parties wouldn't proceed with the transition, citing "strategic differences," reported the journal. Goodyear hasn't commented on the parting and Temasek also hasn't provided details on those differences.

At a news conference, Temasek Chairman S. Dhanabalan said Temasek could sell its stakes in major Singapore firm if they can't provide acceptable levels of growth, although he added that there is no immediate need for such a move.

Temasek has major stakes in blue-chip stocks listed on the Singapore Exchange, such as Singapore Telecommunications Ltd., Singapore Airlines Ltd. and DBS Group Holdings Ltd.

"We are open to divesting [stakes in Singapore companies], but our main focus is to build business internationally," he said.



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