Temasek’s revised charter downplays Singapore links

Kevin Lim

Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings on Tuesday issued an updated charter that described the fund as an investment firm managed on commercial principles, dropping a reference to its role to improve the city-state’s economic base.

“We are operating more overseas, so we like people to have a better understanding of us,” Chairman S Dhanabalan said at a media briefing to present the new version of the Temasek Charter, which outlines the firm’s goals for the future and its relationship with the Singapore government.

The charter was first written in 2002 to provide a roadmap on what Temasek planned to do with its stakes in large state-linked firms such as DBS Group and Singapore Airlines. The charter had not been updated before Tuesday.

Temasek still has controlling stakes in half the city-state’s blue-chip firms, little changed from 2002. It has pared down rather than divested its stakes in Singapore’s biggest firms, and increased its exposure outside Singapore.

Temasek now describes itself as an investment firm creating long-term value for its sole shareholder, Singapore’s Ministry of Finance, but the notes accompanying the 2002 charter stated that the government — through Temasek — needed to own and control firms deemed critical to the city-state’s security, economic well-being or public policy objectives.

Sovereign wealth funds have come under greater scrutiny from Western governments concerned that their investments may be politically motivated, after high-profile acquisitions of stakes in large Western firms and banks by such funds.

Temasek CEO Ho Ching, the wife of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said last month that Temasek’s portfolio lost more than $27 billion or more than a fifth in its financial year to end-March.

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