Crisis offers Sime Darby good opportunity to re-invent itself

Sime Darby Bhd should just focus on its plantation business and use profits to invest in European assets that still offer growth and could help develop Malaysian talent, said a former director of Sime Darby for 18 years.

Dr Charley Chan Chin Cheung, who was part of Sime Darby's board from 1974 to 1992, said the conglomerate should "as far as possible, not compete with local boys in property development, sale of cars and tractors, organic vegetable farming, hypermarket and running of hospitals".

He felt that Sime Darby should not be throwing its weight around locally. It should not have proposed the privatisation of the Institute Jantung Negara or even initiated an idea of building an airport at Labu, in Negeri Sembilan.

Dr Chan views Sime Darby's current crisis as a timely opportunity to re-invent itself. "It should look outward for strategic investments that will help bring about technology and human capital development to all Malaysians," he told Business Times in a recent interview.

"In view of the European debt crises, there's bound to be quite a few affordable assets that still offer growth opportunities. Sime Darby should refocus and seize these opportunities," he said.

Dr Chan, now 76 years old, said it was his proposal back in 1972 for Malaysia to have a conglomerate of its own, preferably by purchasing foreign assets to help uplift all Malaysians, regardless of race.

"My vision back in the 1970s and now is for Sime Darby to compete in the international arena. It should gain control of some meaningful international entities," he said.

Dr Chan became acquainted with Sime Darby since the 1970s. His family were the first Malaysians to plant oil palms in 1965 when the business was controlled by the agency houses and were also involved in the development of Heveacrumb rubber.

"My brothers and I sold our father's oil palm estate to Sime Darby in the early 1970s. Sime Darby did not short-change us, they were just smarter," Dr Chan remembered the deal vividly, and had since been tracking the development of the conglomerate.

The Chan Wing Estate is still part of Sime Darby today.

"By all means, Sime Darby should keep its plantations. It cannot afford to be complacent. It needs to pay more attention to worker safety, accountability of crop sales and efficient fertiliser usage.

"I'm sure, under the leadership of Tun Musa Hitam, Sime Darby still has a chance to rise like a phoenix from the ash," he said.

To a question on public response after the publication of his letter titled "The true story of Sime Darby" on the Internet and newspaper, he replied, "Oh yes, I received calls from my fans, friends and enemies. I didn't realise I had that many enemies," he said, laughing.

Dr Chan had, in the past, helped restructure Renong Bhd and Multi-Purpose Holdings Bhd.

2 Responses to Crisis offers Sime Darby good opportunity to re-invent itself

  1. It's quite disappointing to know that the former director of Sime Darby who managed it so well has also gone bankrupt?

    Where is the great dr Chan Chin Cheung?

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