Former SMRT chief exec appointed Auric Pacific CEO

SINGAPORE - Former SMRT chief executive Saw Phaik Huat will be appointed to the CEO position at Auric Pacific Group Limited on May 1.

This was announced yesterday morning by the company, during an hour-long trading halt on the Singapore Exchange.

Ms Saw, 57, will take over the reins from Mr Yao Che Wan, 65, who will retire from his current role as group managing director and executive director.

Auric, a diversified unit of Indonesian conglomerate Lippo Group, has a varied portfolio in food manufacturing, distribution and retail. It produces Sunshine bread and also owns the Delifrance Asia café chain.

According to a report in The Straits Times, Auric's share prices saw a dip following the announcement of Ms Saw's appointment.

The company's stock opened at 75 cents in the morning, but dropped to 72 cents after the trading halt. It finally finished at 73 cents, despite an early afternoon rally to 75.5 cents.

Trading volume was also up in the past two days - 273,000 shares were moved yesterday, and 233,000 on Wednesday, the daily said. This is up from the average trading volume of 14,500.

Ms Saw's helming of Auric is a return to the retail industry. Before joining SMRT, she was the chief executive of duty-free retail chain DFS Venture Singapore, where she worked for 19 years.

She was named SMRT CEO in Dec 2002 - a move that raised eyebrows as unlike previous appointment holders, Ms Saw was not from the armed forces or civil service.

Ms Saw managed to prove her sceptics wrong and grew a lucrative business for SMRT by renting out retail space within stations.

That business expanded and became SMRT's biggest profit generator, after train operations, The Straits Times said

However, this rental business has been criticised following the two massive rail breakdowns along the North-South line last December. Critics said SMRT's success was at the expense of its core competency to run a rail network.

adrianl@sph.com.sg

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