The secret that is Ho Ching’s salary – will we ever know?

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

The annual remuneration of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Temasek Holdings seems to be the most well-kept secret, with Singaporeans asking, questioning and even speculating what that elusive number could be.

With Ho Ching heading the fund for the past 16 years, since 2002, many push for some transparency.

One Singaporean, Philip Ang, did some calculations and comparisons on his blog.

In a post, he wrote, “Although Temasek Holdings manages our state reserves and should be transparent, the PAP government has legislated senior management executives’ remuneration state secret”.

Ang continued, explaining, “This is because Temasek Holdings (Private) Ltd and Government-Linked Companies (GLCs) are considered to be private sector companies”.

His post speculates how much Ho Ching, the CEO of Temasek Holdings could be earning based upon the salaries of other top earners in the industry, adding, “One thing for certain, Ho is unlikely to be paid lower than CEOs under her charge”.

Ang wrote that “Last year, the highest paid GLC CEO was Piyush Gupta of DBS Group who took home $10.3 million.” This came up to a daily salary of $28,219.

Photo: https://dollarsandsense.sg/ceo-salaries-heres-much-biggest-listed-companies-singapore-paid-ceos-fy2017/

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According to Ang, before Charles Goodyear was hired to be CEO of Temasek Holdings in 2009, he was already earning a salary of $54 million at BHP Billiton. Ang then said, “Logically, Charles must have been offered more than his $54 million salary to quit BHP Billiton”.

He also then calculated that “Conservatively assuming Ho was earning $54 million then and had worked without any break, this works out to $147,945 a day or about 25 times of the PM’s salary”.

After looking at the doubling portfolio value of Temasek Holdings, Ang then speculates that Ho earns “about $300,000 a day”.

Similarly, earlier this year, socio-political activist Leong Sze Hian questioned why Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek does not disclose its management costs such as the salary it pays to its chief executive.

He added, “To the best of my knowledge, I understand that Temasek does not disclose its “management costs” (such as the CEO’s annual remuneration) like Norway’s SWF (sovereign wealth fund).”

Leong also added that in 2017, it was reported that Temasek incurred “administrative expenses” of S$8.4 billion, against a net portfolio value of S$275 billion. The fund, however, has claimed that such expenses were not incurred by the fund alone, but represents the total “administrative expenses” of the fund and its subsidiaries.

Many Singaporeans were puzzled by this rather high administrative cost the company incurred despite only employing about 400 employees in 2011. To this, their group’s corporate affairs director Serena Khoo said “These (administrative expenses) also included expenses of subsidiary companies such Singapore Airlines, PSA, and others, and not for Temasek Holdings only.”

Ho Ching’s salary still remains a mystery, but that does not stop many Singaporeans from making educated guesses and from pushing for transparency.

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obbana@theindependent.sg