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ST praises CapitaLand CEO pulling of mega deal 4 months into job

Yesterday, the Straits Times published an article praising CapitaLand CEO Lee Chee Koon for pulling off a “mighty $11 billion cash-plus-shares deal” to buy Ascendas-Singbridge (ASB) from Temasek Holdings after only 4 months into his job (‘Four months into job and CapitaLand CEO pulls off mega deal for property giant‘, 14 Jan).

The deal, subject to shareholders’ agreement, is supposed to propel CapitaLand into the “largest diversified real estate group in Asia”.

ASB is a subsidiary of Temasek, which is also a major shareholder (40.8%) of CapitaLand. After selling ASB to CapitaLand, Temasek will receive $6 billion, which will be satisfied half in cash and half in new CapitaLand shares, boosting Temasek’s ownership of CapitaLand from the present 40.8 per cent to about 51 per cent upon the close of the transaction.

Essentially, Temasek is selling assets from one hand to the other, with Temasek still controlling the sold ASB assets through its 51 per cent shareholdings in CapitaLand after the deal. The good thing is Temasek itself would get $3 billion cash from CapitaLand through the deal.

When asked about Temasek’s involvement in the deal, CapitaLand CEO Lee replied, “Even though, they (Temasek) are major shareholders (in CapitaLand), we had to negotiate this deal based on what we thought made commercial sense as we are a listed entity with responsibility to all shareholders.”

“That’s why the negotiations weren’t easy… but we reached an outcome that the management felt was good to help CapitaLand’s transformational journey,” he added.

But he acknowledged that there may be some concerns among investors that as a result of the transaction, CapitaLand will be even more complex.

“The success of the transaction is really about integration – are we able to integrate the business together with the people and culture so we can unlock the synergies and values underlying the portfolio and continue to drive good returns on a sustainable basis for the combined entity?” he asked. “I am confident (we can).”

From PSC Scholar to CapitaLand CEO

Lee was awarded a PSC scholarship after his ‘A’ levels. After graduating with a Master’s degree from Imperial College in 2000, he started work as Assistant Director at the MTI. In 2003, he became the Head of International Relations and Economic Strategy in MOF.

In 2007, then CapitaLand CEO Liew Mun Leong asked Lee to join him, as Vice-President at the Office of President in CapitaLand.

Six years later in 2013, he was appointed as CEO of Ascott Ltd, a subsidiary of CapitaLand.

In Jan 2018, he was appointed CapitaLand CIO before taking over as its CEO in Sep 2018.

One thing is for sure though, at least Lee is not another SAF general or admiral who gets parachuted down to head yet another GLC with zero commercial experience.