Ex-Sime Darby man to lead MRT Co

Azhar (centre) delivers Sime Darby’s 2010 third quarter results, in Kuala Lumpur May 27, 2010. — Picture by Yow Hong ChiehAzhar (centre) delivers Sime Darby’s 2010 third quarter results, in Kuala Lumpur May 27, 2010. — Picture by Yow Hong ChiehKUALA LUMPUR, Aug 29 — Former Sime Darby Plantation managing director Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid has been appointed chief executive of MRT Co, which will take over as Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT) project owner on Thursday.

He will report to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who holds the finance portfolio, and Finance Minister II Datuk Seri Husni Hanadzlah, the Performance Delivery and Management Unit (Pemandu) said in a statement today.

Azhar will work closely with the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), outgoing project owner Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd (SPNB) and project delivery partner MMC-Gamuda to ensure Malaysia’s most-costly infrastructure project is implemented effectively.

“In handling a project of this size and complexity, undivided focus and strong leadership are of utmost priority,” Najib said in the statement.

“I am pleased to announce the appointment of Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid after reviewing the qualifications of a few other candidates. Datuk Azhar, who was previously the managing director of Sime Darby Plantation, came with a solid track record in delivering results and managing large scale operations.”

Sime Darby Plantation saw its operating profit increase 23 per cent to RM2.1 billion in the 2009/2010 financial year under Azhar’s leadership, Pemandu added.

Azhar’s appointment was confirmed by Najib after consulting with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and Sime Darby president and chief executive Datuk Bakke Salleh, who both verified that Azhar had not been implicated in the conglomerate’s huge losses last year.

The prime minister had earlier announced the formation of Ministry of Finance Inc unit MRT Co on August 18, a move that analysts said could ease procurement for Bumiputera firms.

In what was seen as a concession to the influential Bumiputera business community, Najib then announced he would allot 43 per cent of total civil engineering contracts for the Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) KVMRT line by value to Bumiputera contractors.

Experts are concerned that the Bumiputera quota may swell the cost of the rail project, estimated at RM50 billion, as some small Bumiputera contractors may not be able to leverage on economy of scale in terms of equipment and resources.

However, Unit Peneraju Agenda Bumiputera (Teraju) insisted last week that only qualified Bumiputera contractors will be selected through a “bidding process based on transparency, merit, ability and track record”.


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