Good evening, Minister Grace Fu, organisers of the Singapore Business Awards, ladies and gentlemen.
I am humbled to be standing here this evening. It does not seem so long ago when I was appointed CEO of CapitaLand. Yet much has happened, and we are today in some ways quite different from the CapitaLand that was first listed in 2000 when DBS Land and Pidemco were merged. Since its inception, CapitaLand has benefited from inspirational and farsighted leaders, first by Mr Liew Mun Leong, and then Mr Lim Ming Yan. My distinguished predecessors built CapitaLand into a strong, successful company during their respective stewardship, leaving me and my leadership team with very large boots to fill. But market conditions and the competitive landscape were changing, and we knew we could not remain status quo.
We began our transformation journey first with the S$11 billion merger with Ascendas-Singbridge, followed by a series of consolidations of our REIT vehicles. I am proud to say that we have now the largest hospitality REIT in Asia Pacific and a commercial REIT that is among the three largest in Asia Pacific.
Last year in March 2021, we undertook Part 2 of our transformation journey, when we restructured CapitaLand, which led to the two entities you see today – CapitaLand Investment and CapitaLand Development. This unlocked more than S$10 billion of value for shareholders. We are now trading at a 25% premium. I like to believe this made our shareholders very happy! Together with the REITs, we currently account for more than S$50 billion of market cap in SGX and about S$90 billion of funds under management.
It has been an adventurous, exciting and at times nerve-racking journey, and this award surely belongs to the company and to our people. I am simply the face of the company, standing up here to receive this award on behalf of everyone in CapitaLand. We have so much to be grateful for. So tonight, please allow me to use this opportunity to acknowledge and express my thanks for three things:
First, the contributions of our Board of Directors – now headed by Mr Miguel Ko and previously by Mr Ng Kee Choe. Over the last few years, the Board has guided and worked very closely with us. There has been healthy debate and discourse, and definitely disagreements. But we have remained faithful to our commitment to land on decisions or directions that are in the best long-term interest for CapitaLand and our shareholders.
Credit also goes to my senior management team and staff, many of whom are here tonight. You all are the real winners, you are the ones who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes trying to make the mergers and restructuring successful. I am so proud of what we have achieved as a team. While individually we may not be superstars, together we form a star team! From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the trust and the friendship!
On a personal note, I would also like to express my gratitude to my many mentors who have been my sounding board and patiently given me advice, both in my professional and personal life. Some of you are here tonight – thank you for making sure I stay out of trouble!
The second thing I’m grateful for is how the trial by fire of the COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened us. COVID-19 dealt a huge blow to CapitaLand, especially when Singapore and China went into lockdown in April 2020, because we had 80% business exposure to these two markets. During those dark days, no one had any idea when the lockdown would end, or what kind of post-pandemic future we would have. We had to continue to run our business as best as we could, and make sure that our colleagues, tenants and stakeholders were alright. I can honestly say COVID-19 was the biggest challenge in my corporate life.
But I am grateful because COVID-19 helped to bring the CapitaLand team even closer together. There is really nothing like being in the trenches together, knowing we had to fight our way out, to build trust among our colleagues and to strengthen our ties with the communities we operate in.
Importantly, COVID-19 forced us to take a hard and honest look at our company’s business model. We must never waste a crisis. That’s when we decided to take a chance and bring forward our plans to restructure the company.
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CapitaLand's Group CEO, Mr Lee Chee Koon shares updates on the business impact of COVID-19, and the support the Group has rendered to stakeholders.
Which brings me to the third thing I am thankful for: Timing, or some may call it the Invisible Hand, or Providence, or Divine Intervention. In CapitaLand’s case, we could have found many logical reasons to delay our restructuring plans. But looking back now, imagine if we had put off the announcement, or done the relisting when the Fed started turning hawkish, or on the day when Russia invaded Ukraine. The outcomes could have been very different! There is a Chinese saying, “谋事在人,成事在天” (man proposes, heaven disposes). This saying always keeps me grounded and keeps me going.
This month marks the first anniversary of CLI’s listing. We are off to a good start but we are not the finished article. We are still in the early stage of building a globally competitive asset management platform. Tonight, I speak on behalf of all my CapitaLand colleagues: thank you for this award, thank you for your support, and thank you for encouraging us on the next part of our journey!