Singtel picks street-pleasing insider as new CEO to reverse decline

REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Shares in Singapore Telecommunications (Singtel) jumped by the most in four months after Southeast Asia’s biggest telecoms firm appointed an insider as its new group CEO during a weak outlook for the industry.

Singtel said on Thursday its board chose Yuen Kuan Moon, the CEO of its Singapore consumer business, to replace Chua Sock Koong, 63, who will retire after 13 years at the helm.

Citi analysts said Yuen’s transition to his new role should be seen positively.

“The street had been previously concerned with the prior earnings pressure and dividend uncertainties, leading to its share price de-rating,” the analysts said in a note and kept a buy rating on Singtel.

Singtel shares rose as much as 3.3% on Thursday to S$2.19, catapulting them to the leaderboard of the main index. The shares recovered from 12-year lows of S$2.08 struck on Wednesday, but are still down about 35% so far this year.

Yuen, 53, who joined the firm in 1993 and became its group chief digital officer in 2018, will take charge in January at the group, which has more than 700 million mobile subscribers in 21 countries.

The move comes as Singtel, which gets the bulk of its business outside Singapore, has been hit by intensifying competition in overseas markets such as India and Australia.

Chairman Lee Theng Kiat told a virtual news conference that Yuen was chosen after a global search that considered internal and external candidates after Chua last year flagged her desire to retire.

Lee said Yuen’s “years of honed experience in the company’s core telecom business and his more recent focus on transforming the group digitally for growth, make him extremely well placed to lead Singtel forward in an era of disruption.”

Chua will stay on as a senior adviser to the chairman.

In the year ended March, Singtel’s net profit plunged about 65% to the lowest in more than two decades and it did not provide forecasts for the current year, citing uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Reporting by Anshuman Daga in Singapore; Additional reporting by Anushka Trivedi and Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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