Trust us, there’re more important things happening in Temasek than Ho Ching’s salary

TL;DR – We didn’t embark on this journey to play games. 

Some of you might have received, rather strangely, a link to an old Bloomberg article about Temasek’s performance. It may even come with a link or screenshot about Temasek having to delay their annual reporting.

I suppose it won’t be too much to speculate that it might be some naughty people trying to push the narrative that all is not well at Temasek. A certain frequently blocked and POFMA’ed site run by an ex-Singaporean who ran against PM Lee in AMK GRC once also picked this up and tried to push his agenda against the ruling party.

Tsk tsk.

Anyway, I think it’s important to understand that these investments are for the long term. Markets go up and down, and economic cycles are normal, although the cycles seem to be increasingly shorter.

So do not get overly, excessively alarmed when you hear of losses. Most of it is just paper losses, unless they choose to dispose of the investments at a loss. And if the investments are sufficiently diversified, things will usually work out fine.

We really shouldn’t be navel-gazing at Ho Ching’s salary

Too many people focus on Ho Ching’s salary or her position as PM Lee’s wife.

I say, wrong focus.

Just like how too many voters are ooh’ing and ahh’ing over WP’s Jamus Lim or fussing over the littlest things, when our eyes should be on how to get the country through the crisis of a generation.

Our focus should be on Our Lives, Our Jobs, Our Future.

And how the heck are we gonna ensure we survive this, recover and eventually thrive.

Here’s a video to bring you back to focus.

May I also take this chance to digress and ask PSP Dr Tan Cheng Bock….

Where is your friggin’ COVID-19 plan? It’s already Thursday, the last day you’ve got before Cooling Day. So please show us your COVID-19 plan already.

Why did PSP Tan Cheng Bock jio SDP Paul Tambyah to challenge PAP Chan Chun Sing to debate on national TV?

For Temasek, if you’re interested at all, you should be looking at what it does and how it contributes back to Singapore. You should be looking at what it has done and how it has evolved since 1974.

Once you see how much it has grown and how much Ho Ching has contributed to bring Temasek to what it is today, perhaps you will care less about how much she’s paid.

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Maybe you can read this on Cooling Day:

Temasek Holdings: how Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund built a S$300 billion portfolio

First off, Temasek Holdings is Singapore’s state-owned investment firm. Its sole shareholder is Singapore’s Ministry of Finance, and was established in 1974 with S$354 million. It started with a portfolio of fledgling Singapore companies that the state had invested in.

Ho Ching joined Temasek in 2002 and became its CEO in 2004.

Did you know she was instrumental in Temasek’s decision to diversify away from a Singapore-based portfolio?

It was under her change when Temasek looked outwards and started to aim for one-third exposure to Singapore, one-third to the rest of Asia and one-third to the OECD economies.

In the year ended March 31, 2008, Temasek’s net investments outside Asia exceeded net investments into Asia for the first time.

In terms of performance, it started with $354 million in 1974, hit $223 billion in 2014 and it’s now a $300 billion power house.

Did you know that Temasek was one of the main investors in a $14 billion dollar fundraising round by Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba, in 2018?

Ho Ching also opened offices in San Francisco in 2018 and poured over a quarter of Temasek’s money into sectors like life sciences, tech and agribusiness.

Temasek does not look purely at returns when considering investments. It has also keenly invested in sectors that will help Singapore with our quest for more self-sufficiency, including in food, natural resources and energy.

It has always been kinda remote and distanced from the everyday Singaporeans.

But the pandemic has brought Temasek closer to all of us.

Temasek has been with us all the way, from intervening to ensure we secure our own mask production facility, to distributing hand sanitisers to every household, to mask for every household, face shields for pre-school and primary school students, to helping migrant workers, etc.

In fact, Temasek Holdings has earmarked $800 million for the coronavirus fight, including $10 million to support ground-up initiatives.

Separately, Temasek has also recently announced its investment in a COVID-19 vaccine testing company.

And now, The Most Active Resharer on Facebook Award goes to…..

Ho Ching!

Yeps, if we ever have an award like that, she’ll be champs!

In case you missed this Facebook post in her seemingly endless resharing, I’ve lifted it here and am gonna republish the post before it gets drowned by her own posts, LOL!

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She’s taken to Facebook to address these widely circulated links with insinuations of poor management / performance. She’d focused on two main items, on the reporting of performance, and on Temasek’s approach as a long term investor.

I really like how she’s tried to explain things in simple terms!


Hello, everyone!

Am told that some folks are making a song and dance about Temasek’s results based on one old media story that used inaccurate and incomplete data.

Just to clear the air on a couple of points – on reporting of performance, and on Temasek’s approach as a long term investor.

Firstly, every year since 2004, Temasek reports its portfolio performance, and its consolidated group financials.

The portfolio performance on various time horizons is a report card on how Temasek is delivering as a long term investor, and not just for one year, and certainly not over just a few selective months.

We do this without fail, good or bad.

We have listed companies, whose share prices as at end March are publicly available. We also have private companies who are bond issuers or who still report to their stakeholders, and whose financials are also known for those who track them.

It is quite straightforward for folks to estimate our portfolio value based on these public data.

We list the major investments in our portfolio every year. Last year those major investments made up about 60% of the total portfolio, so even just by tracking those, you get a pretty accurate sense of what’s happening.

Some folks used these variously available public data to work out that Temasek’s portfolio value would be north of S$300 billion as at 31 March 2020.

Steady lah, folks – am impressed with the analyses, and pretty close to our own management estimates too. 😄😄😄

The audited portfolio performance should be finalised over the next couple of weeks, and is unlikely to be very far from the above.

Temasek also reports our consolidated group accounts, as we own large concentrated positions in various of our portfolio companies.

We can only start consolidating our group financials, when the portfolio companies can submit their audited results to Temasek for consolidation.

This is unlike sovereign wealth funds who typically invest in minority positions as a fund manager, and whose financials as a fund manager are not relevant for performance reporting.

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Our group financials will be delayed, bcos a number of our major companies have financial closing in March.

Normally, these companies will have finalised their audits well before end June. As we would have started consolidating results from those whose financial year end are in December, we can then report our performance during July.

Typically, the auditors would camp in the company with a room to themselves to comb through the papers and financials in order to close the financial accounts.

With covid, this has just not been possible. So the regulators have extended the financial reporting for such companies, typically by about 2 months, or the duration of their covid lock down.

Hence, Temasek will only have its full set of results ready in September – portfolio performance is ready before end July, but we will have to wait for consolidated group financials by September to do the full report.

** Our approach as an investor **

When Temasek started reporting publicly in 2004, it was a deliberate commitment on our part to be transparent about our overall performance annually. Along with regular international bond issuances, they are intended as a form of self imposed financial discipline across generations.

We reported sharp falls during the 2009 global financial crisis, and the sharp rebound the following year.

We are not fazed by minute to minute, or quarter to quarter gyrations in our portfolio value.

Instead, the Temasek team continues to focus on the longer term trends, and try our best to deliver for the long term in a sustainable way, by investing into these long term trends.

At the same time, we know we have a duty beyond just delivering sustainable long term returns. We strive to be a responsible investor, by doing right and doing good, even as we do well.

We didn’t embark on this journey to play games – we have a larger ambition to stay the course as a trusted steward, a forward looking institution, and an active partner for a better world.

Take care everyone, and keep well.

[Updated (2020.07.14]
Singapore investment company Temasek’s social and charity arm, Temasek Foundation, has committed $800 million to fighting Covid-19.


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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

More posts by Gabrielle Teo

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