The market reacted positively to the appointment of former Malakoff Corp Bhd managing director Datuk Wira Azhar Abdul Hamid as the new chairman of Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV).

Shares of the plantation giant closed seven sen up or 4.27% higher to RM1.71 yesterday, with 19 million shares being traded.

Azhar, who clocked in for his first day of work at Menara Felda early yesterday morning, has pledged to turn around the company as well as resolve issues within the plantation group.

In a filing with Bursa Malaysia, FGV said that Azhar had been appointed as chairman effective Sept 8.

Last Friday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced the appointment of Azhar as FGV’s new chairman, replacing Sulaiman, who was acting chairman after Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad was removed from his position.

Bernama reported that Azhar was scheduled to chair two meetings on his first day in the office, one with the key management staff, followed by the second meeting with the board members in the afternoon.

One issue that was possibly discussed was the fate of FGV’s president and chief executive officer Datuk Zakaria Arshad, who is currently on a leave of absence due to a domestic inquiry on purported wrongdoing in business dealings between its subsidiary Delima Oil Products Sdn Bhd and long-term business partner Afghan-based Safitex Trading LLC.

News reports, quoting sources, speculated that Zakaria would likely return this week to helm the plantation group after his suspension some three months ago.

Separately, Bernama reported that Zakaria, who met reporters after the final round of the inquiry, said he was made to understand that the FGV board of directors convened for a decision on the matter yesterday.

“I hope everything turns out well. I don’t want to jump the gun (when it comes to the decision). I will leave it to the wisdom of the board, including the new chairman, to assess this case,” he was quoted as saying.

In an earlier statement yesterday, Zakaria said that Azhar’s appointment would bring in a fresh and positive perspective to the board of directors and management, which is currently facing a perception crisis.

Zakaria said he was also convinced that the recent positive momentum on the FGV share price seen late last week would continue, as the market is confident that Azhar and the FGV management have the ability to steer the company back to the right track.

“It is my hope that this positive development will inject renewed spirit into the group and employees, to maximise returns to stakeholders and shareholders, especially Felda and the setllers/peneroka,”

Azhar is no stranger to the plantation sector, having had a stint at Sime Darby Bhd as its executive vice-president of the plantation and agribusiness division, and as its acting president and chief executive from May 2010 to June 2010.

He had also served as the CEO of Mass Rapid Transit Corp Sdn Bhd.

For the second quarter ended June 30, 2017, FGV posted a 65% drop in net profit as its sugar business dragged down group profit on higher raw material prices and a weaker ringgit.

Profit fell to RM25.9mil from RM73.7mil, while revenue rose to RM4.22bil from RM4.14bil in the quarter compared with the same period in 2016.

Source: The Star