AMONG the many captains of industry who attended the dialogue with the Prime Minister on Tuesday was Telekom Malaysia Bhd chairman and chief executive, and Celcom (M) Bhd chairman.
After the dialogue session, many were seen mingling in the foyer. Telekom chairman Tan Sri Ir Radzi Mansor was seen engaged in serious discussion with no other than elusive tycoon T. Ananda Krishnan. The whispering lasted a good 20 minutes.
Less than 10 minutes after Radzi left the hotel, the rumour mill had it that the “Telekom board was at that very moment locked in a session, and the agenda was to give Khir his walking papers’’.
How could Radzi be in a boardroom in Menara Telekom in Kuala Lumpur when he had just left Putrajaya Marriot?
Regardless, by 3pm, the storyline had changed; the person to be gunned down was Celcom group chief executive Datuk Ramli Abbas. Another had it that Telekom and Celcom chairmen wanted their CEOs out.
The rumours went on for several days and some even said the “termination letters” were ready.
The rumour mill was certainly on overdrive.
Incidentally, the Telekom board met at 2.30pm on the day the dialogue was held, its first board meeting for 2004. Although board meetings are usually held in the morning, this particular one was scheduled for the afternoon to accommodate the dialogue. Due to a long agenda, the meeting stretched over two days.
At a press conference on Thursday, after the marathon Telekom board meeting, Radzi flatly denied there were factions or rift at the top level; only disagreements and differences in opinions, which he viewed as healthy and constructive.
Nonetheless, some people claiming to be in the know remained adamant that there were “factions involving the two chairmen and their CEOs, and this had been going on for a while now’’.
Ostensibly, this stems from the differing views the top brass at Celcom and Telekom have over the re-listing of Celcom. Datuk Dr Munir Majid, the chairman of Celcom, favours an early listing; Khir wants the Celcom-TMTouch integration to be completed first.
“Radzi, Munir, Khir and Ramli are respected and some decorum can be expected; no common ground could be reached over the re-listing date at the board meeting,'' said an industry player.
Although the boardroom meeting did catch a lot of attention and made headlines for several days, many analysts are not paying too much attention to the “squabbles of the CEOs and chairmen''.
“So long as the operations are okay, changes would not make any difference,’’ an analyst pointed out, adding that Telekom had 24,000 employees, a fixed network, Internet services and lots of products; and has been in operation for a very long time.
“No CEO can make changes overnight. Yet there were visible changes the past two years, although the pace was slow.
“As a group, people are trying to realise they have to get their act together. First, they have to talk to each other. There is still non-communication in different divisions within Telekom, but its product bundling is a great effort.’’
Ramli had provided some direction to Celcom, they said. So far it had all been about integration, merger and branding. The real value would be realised next year, they added.
To some analysts, whether the listing was in June, July or even December, it made no difference.
They are looking for value, and value has been created. The RM2.75 a share Telekom paid for Celcom is much higher now.
A related issue was talk that two Celcom directors – Datuk Abdul Rahman Ismail and Datuk Ng Kong Yeam – would be removed. Radzi denied there was such an attempt.
The two were among the several independent directors who stayed back after Telekom became the major shareholder in Celcom.
Rahman joined Celcom (formerly Technology Resources Industries Bhd (TRI) in 1991. The 2001 TRI annual report listed him as being also a director of KYM Holdings Bhd, said to be linked to former TRI executive director Datuk Lim Kheng Yew. Ng, a lawyer, joined TRI in 1989.
In the final analysis, analysts enjoyed the various reports that made headlines the past few days. Some called it “wayang kulit'', others lauded its “entertainment value''.
But they were nevertheless quick to point out that Telekom and Celcom should concentrate on harmonising and creating value, and not spend time squabbling. By so doing they were just opening opportunities for competitors to eat into their market share, they added.