Zakaria’s fate as FGV president and CEO still uncertain

Datuk Zakaria Arshad, FGV group president and CEO and group chief financial officer Ahmad Tifli Mohd Talha have been suspended with immediate effect.

PETALING JAYA: The fate of Datuk Zakaria Arshad as president and chief executive officer of Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) is still uncertain.

This is because only the Government, which has a golden share in the highly-watched plantation company, has the prerogative to remove the president and the CEO.

So far, three of the four executives of FGV who were told to go on leave by the board headed by previous chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad have resumed their duties.

The latest was FGV’s group chief financial officer Ahmad Tifli Mohd Talha. The other two senior officers – Delima Oil Products Sdn Bhd senior general manager Kamarzaman Abd Karim and FGV Trading Sdn Bhd CEO Ahmad Salman Omar – reported back to work last week.

After a four-month leave of absence, Ahmad Tifli will be resuming his duties today, according to a statement by FGV to Bursa Malaysia.

“The fate of Zakaria is left to the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. The Government, which has the golden share, appoints the chairman, president/CEO and one director of FGV.

“So, only the Government has the last say on Zakaria. The findings of the investigations will be submitted to the Government for consideration,” said a source.

Zakaria, Ahmad Tifli and the two others were told to go on leave pending an investigation on purported wrongdoings in dealings of a subsidiary of the group, Delima Oil Products, and long-term business partner Afghan-based Safitex Trading LLC.

The action to force the four senior executives to go on leave was taken by the FGV management headed by former chairman Mohd Isa on June 6.

Zakaria had then contended that he was told to go on leave because he did not agree to certain corporate transactions planned by the board of FGV. He had said that the proposed corporate moves were into areas that were not core to the plantation business.

He also said that he had clamped down on the excessive spending by some board members.

Since his departure from FGV, Mohd Isa has been questioned by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to assist in investigations on Felda’s controversial purchases of hotels in London and Kuching.

The Government later appointed Tan Sri Sulaiman Mahbob as acting chairman, taking over from Mohd Isa, who was made acting chairman of the Land Public Transport Commission.

A domestic inquiry panel was set up by FGV to investigate alleged impropriety practices pertaining to the four senior executives.

The deadlock in FGV was broken when the Government appointed former Malakoff Corp Bhd managing director Datuk Wira Azhar Abdul Hamid as the new chairman of FGV on Sept 8, replacing Sulaiman.

Sulaiman has been redesignated as a director.

Azhar is no stranger to the plantation sector, having had a stint at Sime Darby Bhd as its executive vice-president of the plantation and agribusiness division, and as its acting president and chief executive from May 2010 to June 2010.

He had also served as the CEO of Mass Rapid Transit Corp Sdn Bhd.

FGV has been clouded by governance issues mainly because of an acquisition spree that started after it got listed.

When it was listed in 2012, it had a cash pile of more than RM5bil. This had since dropped to RM1.87bil as of March 31 this year.

Between January 2013 and 2016, FGV completed seven acquisitions. The president and CEO during this period was Datuk Mohd Emir Mavani Abdullah and the chairman, Mohd Isa.

For the second quarter ended June 30, 2017, FGV posted a 65% drop in net profit, as its sugar business dragged down group profit on higher raw material prices and a weaker ringgit.

Profit fell to RM25.9mil from RM73.7mil while revenue rose to RM4.22bil from RM4.14bil in the same period in 2016.

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