Also quitting the company is chief financial officer Datuk Teow Leong Seng.
Liew’s departure was expected by industry observers but Teow’s resignation came as a surprise as he was named deputy chairman in the property player’s succession plan earlier, analysts told StarBiz.
Liew would leave the property giant on April 30 while Teow would stay on until July 31.
Liew and Teow would continue to be involved in the Battersea Power Station project in London until September 2015 given the prominence of the international project.
Liew would also remain managing director for Qinzhou Development (M) Consortium Sdn Bhd, a Sino-foreign joint venture company to develop the China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park in the republic until the same period.
Sources said the property magnate would eventually emerge in Eco World Development Group Bhd after his stint in S P Setia.
It is also speculated that present chief operating officer Datuk Voon Tin Yow, who was appointed the company’s acting president and chief executive officer, might also resign later.
In a statement, S P Setia said Voon’s appointment would be effective from May 1, 2014 until April 30, 2015.
Voon would be supported by executive vice-president Datuk Khor Chap Jen who would be appointed acting deputy president during the same period, it said.
S P Setia chairman Tun Zaki Tun Azmi said: “Whilst the board and I are greatly saddened by the departure of Liew, Teow and Lee, we are confident that the group will continue to be in steady hands under Voon and Khor.”
Observers expected its biggest owner Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) to take more proactive measures in managing its talents as well as setting the company’s direction going forward.
It was earlier reported that Datuk Jamaludin Osman of I&P Group Sdn Bhd – PNB’s property arm – was among the candidates tipped to take over Liew’s stewardship. There were also talks of a possible asset injection by PNB into S P Setia.
Liew said: “Given the solid footing which the company is on, I believe the time has arrived for me to step down after 18 years as CEO.
“With my children all growing up and starting out on their own career paths, I am looking forward to spending more time with them, mentoring and guiding them.”
Liew’s eldest son, Tian Xiong, is a major shareholder and director in Eco World, another property firm set up by former S P Setia top brass.
S P Setia fell five sen to close at RM2.88 while Eco World was up one sen to RM4.15.
Analysts said the market has priced in Liew’s retirement from S P Setia and they expected the company’s operation to remain intact for the time being.
Bloomberg data showed that its forward price-to-earnings (P/E) was 13.4 times compared to 16.06 times currently. Its average P/E ranged from 17 times to 20 times from financial year ended Oct 31, 2011 (FY11) to FY13.
Liew is instrumental in growing S P Setia from a RM200mil entity in 1998 into a multi-billion ringgit international property company.
With him at the helm, S P Setia achieved sales of RM8.24bil in FY13, almost double from what it registered in FY12.
The group has 4,782 acres of undeveloped land bank worth RM102bil while its unbilled sales stood at RM9.6bil as at FY13.
– Contributed by Ng Bei Shan The StarBiz/ANN
Who’s who in Eco World
Fresh from graduating as a Bachelor of Commerce from Melbourne University late last year, Liew Tian Xiong, 22, is not short of persuasive skills that a sales person possesses as he introduces EcoSky to StarBizWeek when we visited Eco World Development Sdn Bhd’s sales gallery.
In fact, one of the key performance indicators he has to meet, is to sell off 30 units of its KL project, EcoSky, which will then determine whether he gets his bonus.
Besides sales and marketing, he is also involved in project planning, land acquisition and liaising with land consultants.
Asked on people who influenced him, the affable young man says: “I have probably learnt from my father throughout my whole life. He taught me to keep my head down and listen to people, and to keep asking questions.”
He says he has learnt from both CEO Datuk Chang Khim Wah and COO Datuk S. Rajoo and what he is going through, is essentially a fast track management training programme.
Chang says: “There is a lot of things (for him) to learn. He’s doing groundwork like sales and marketing, planning and reading legal documents although he is holding the director’s card.”
“Tan Sri Liew (Kee Sin) told me that I can scold him (Xiong). I was scolded by Tan Sri Liew back then, so it’s pay back time now,” Chang jokes.
However the relationship among the management team when StarBizWeek met up with them is warm and fervent.
Chang quips: “We even play futsal with him (Xiong)… ”
The experienced management personnel like Chang and Rajoo had known each other for about two decades, but Xiong, at his tender age, seems to be gelling well with them.
Xiong’s younger brother, Tian Rong, 20, is also with the company as a contract staff. He is pursuing an economics degree from University London College and is having a stint in the company.
The man who helms Eco World, Datuk Chang Khim Wah, 50, joined S P Setia in 1994 and had been there for about 20 years. Prior to that, he was a consultant engineer in Australia. He was one of the members instrumental in setting up S P Setia’s Johor Baru division and went on to set up an office in Singapore and Jakarta.
He concedes that the team has S P Setia’s DNA in terms of team effort and competitiveness. His relationship with Liew was depicted as an understanding that required little words.
“We don’t speak long sentences (but) we understand each other,” he shares.
Chang’s counterpart, Rajoo, 50, assumes the position of COO in Eco World. He spent his first seven years in S P Setia in the Klang Valley helping the development of Bukit Indah Ampang and Pusat Bandar Puchong
and subsequently in some of the township developments in Johor where he then worked closely with Chang.
After that, he was overseeing S P Setia’s projects in the northern region for seven years and had carried out 13 projects with a gross development of more than RM2bil in the Pearl of the Orient.
Heah Kok Boon, 46, the chief financial officer of Eco World, is a chartered accountant who has over two decades of experience in the field of corporate finance, corporate fund raising, investments, merger and acquisition as well as other finance-related areas.
He was with S P Setia’s corporate affairs department for six years prior to his current role.
When introducing the major shareholders behind Eco World, Chang says Leong and Rashid are the two major shareholders.
“These two names are more than enough (for Eco World’s credibility),” Chang says, joking that Xiong has no shares in the property outfit.
One of its major shareholders and directors, businessman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Manaf, 65, was trained as a legal practitioner from Middle Temple London.
He was chairman for the board of S P Setia Bhd from March 12, 1997 until Oct 25, 2012.
Another director, who is a corporate figure, is Datuk Eddy Leong Kok Wah, 58. He holds a master of business administration from University of Hull, United Kingdom, and is also a member of Institute of Bankers (UK). He has an extensive career in the banking industry and is currently an executive director of Salcon Bhd and also sits on the board of a few other companies. He was in S P Setia’s remuneration committee from Sept 21, 2005-Feb 28, 2013.