Singapore port operator sheds non-core businesses

  Agence France Presse
February 14, 2003

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INGAPORE port operator PSA Corp. is transferring several non-core businesses to its parent Temasek Holdings in order to sharpen its focus amid stiff competition, the state-linked company said Friday, Feb 14.

PSA's airport handling, cruise terminal and exhibitions businesses, and its interest in cable car operator Singapore Cable Car (Pte) Ltd., are to be taken over by Hazeltree Holdings Pte Ltd., a 100-percent owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings.

The transfer, subject to regulatory and other approvals, is targeted to take effect at the end of March. Temasek is a state investment arm which holds key stakes in several strategic companies in Singapore.

The transfer is in line with PSA's strategic intent to sharpen its business focus on its core competence in port development, management and operations, and follows the earlier transfer of PSA's non-port properties to Temasek Holdings in 2000, a statement said.

"The transfer is part and parcel of PSA's on-going transformation from a Singapore-based operator to the global port player we are today," said Ng Chee Keong, PSA's group president and chief executive officer.

"We have expanded our borders and grown our volumes and, as we forge ahead in an increasingly competitive market, we will have to be extremely focused in terms of where we want to direct our resources and energies," he added.

Earlier this week, PSA said container volumes handled by its domestic and international terminals in January rose 28 percent.

Figures released by the state-owned operator showed throughput at its Singapore terminals increased five percent to 1.38 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) and overseas terminals rose 118 percent to 727,000 TEUs.

For 2002, the port operator's total throughput grew 28 percent to 24.5 million TEUs and overseas operations soared 115 percent to 7.8 million TEUs.

The sharp rise in contributions from its overseas terminals came mostly from the April acquisition of the Hesse Noord Natie terminal in Belgium, and the July opening of a terminal at Guangzhou in southern China.

PSA operates one of the world's busiest ports in Singapore but has seen increasing challenges from neighbouring countries, especially Malaysia.

It overhauled its strategy in the middle of last year in a bid to remain the region's transhipment hub, including trimming handling charges for empty containers and offering rebates.