SMRT CEO's pay of over $2m beats predecessor's

INCUMBENT: Mr Kuek's remuneration makes him SMRT's highest-paid CEO.
SMRT CEO's pay of over $2m beats predecessor's

PREDECESSOR: Ms Saw made about $1.85 million before she left in 2012.


    Jun 25, 2015

    SMRT CEO's pay of over $2m beats predecessor's

    SMRT chief executive Desmond Kuek, 52, earned more than $2.25 million last year, according to the company's latest annual report.

    The amount is double what he made when he first joined the rail operator in October 2012. For the six months to SMRT's financial year end in March 2013, Mr Kuek made $611,000, which is equivalent to $1.22 million if annualised.

    For the year ended March 2014, he made between $1.75 million and $2 million.

    In its latest annual report, the Temasek Holdings-owned transport group said Mr Kuek's remuneration was between $2.25 million and $2.5 million for the last financial year.

    This means Mr Kuek's compensation had doubled in less than three years, making him SMRT's highest-paid CEO.

    His predecessor, Saw Phaik Hwa, made about $1.85 million before she left in 2012.

    Mr Kuek's remuneration package is also noticeably larger than that of Kua Hong Pak, his counterpart at rival transport group ComfortDelGro - a significantly larger company.

    Last year, Mr Kua, 71, drew between $1.75 million and $2 million, a remuneration band that has not changed in recent years.

    In its last financial year, ComfortDelGro posted a turnover of $4.05 billion and profit of $283.5 million, while SMRT recorded a turnover of $1.24 billion and net earnings of $91 million.

    SMRT director Tan Ek Kia told The Straits Times that Mr Kuek's remuneration "is benchmarked to peer companies...and is competitive and at a responsible level".

    He added that the new CEO's tasks were more daunting than before. SMRT has been struggling to renew ageing operating assets to improve service reliability and is, at the same time, looking for new ways to bolster earnings eroded by higher operating expenditure.

    In a recent interview with The Straits Times, Mr Kuek said: "We have made tremendous progress on many fronts...but there is much more to be done to improve rail reliability."

    Even so, the former chief of defence force's remuneration has raised eyebrows.

    Said David Leong, managing director of human-resource firm People Worldwide Consulting: "He may well deserve the amount based on others he is benchmarked against, but SMRT should have been more sensitive to public perception.

    "The company is under close public scrutiny. It is not like it has done exceedingly well financially. On the engineering front, it has not done that well either, because the spate of breakdowns has not fallen dramatically."