Singtel appoints consumer head as new group CEO

Singapore telco's CEO Chua Sock Koong, who is set to retire in January, will be replaced by 27-year company veteran and current head of Singapore consumer business, Yuen Kuan Moon.

Singtel's consumer business chief will assume the role of group CEO next year, as the Singapore telco's current head is set to retire. The announcement is the latest to reveal a change at the top seat amongst telcos in the country over the past couple of years.

A 27-year veteran at the company, Yuen Kuan Moon joined the telco in 1993 and currently is CEO of Singtel's Singapore consumer business as well as chief digital officer. He has held several leadership positions including in marketing, business development, and at Telkomsel in Indonesia. 

CEO of Singtel's consumer business since 2012, Yuen will take over as group CEO from January 2021, when current chief Chua Sock Koong was scheduled to retire. The latter will remain as a senior advisor to the chairman and help guide the transition.

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His appointment had followed a global search that assessed both internal and external candidates, said Singtel in a statement Thursday. 

Singtel Chairman Lee Theng Kiat said: "[Yuen's] years of honed experience in the company's core telecom business, and his more recent focus on transforming the group digitally for growth, make him extremely well placed to lead Singtel forward in an era of disruption."

Yuen said Singtel was at an "exciting juncture" with 5G, which he expects is poised to impact the telecommunications sector as well as other industries. The executive holds a First Class Honours engineering degree from the University of Western Australia and a Master of Science in Management from Stanford University.

Chua assumed the CEO position in 2007 and has been with Singtel since 1989. 

During her stint as chief, the telco added Optus in Australia to its portfolio as well as invested stakes in major telecommunication players in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand, Lee said. Chua also led Singtel's digital transformation, including the digitalisation of its core telecom business, and built up its cybersecurity business, with Lee adding that Chua helped guide the telco's investment in 5G.

Singtel, alongside local operators StarHub and M1, secured licences to deploy nationwide 5G networks in Singapore earlier this year and has opted to work with Ericsson for its network rollout. Joint licensees StarHub and M1 have also gone with Nokia to build out their core 5G infrastructures, though, all three telcos have indicated they intend to collaborate with others, such as Huawei and ZTE on various use cases. 

Meanwhile, TPG Telecom has been awarded the remaining frequency spectrum in the millimetre wave band, which will enable the Australian telco to roll out localised 5G networks. The telco, as well as other mobile virtual network operators, will have to negotiate wholesale service agreements with Singtel or M1 and StarHub in order to tap into their respective 5G networks and offer retail 5G services to end-users. 

Singtel's impending CEO change followed StarHub's announcement in July that it had begun a global hunt for a new CEO, with current chief Peter Kaliaropoulos set to retire and step down from October 31 this year. An interim committee has been set up to provide support to the leadership team during the search and oversee the transition to the new CEO. 

Kaliaropoulos assumed his CEO position in July 2018, following another months-long search that began when StarHub's former chief Tan Tong Hai stepped down to pursue his own interests. The telco has yet to reveal a potential successor. 

M1's current CEO Manjot Singh Mann, too, assumed his position less than two years ago in December 2018, following the retirement of former chief Karen Kooi Lee Wah.

Singtel has also teamed up with Grab in a bid to snag one of a handful of digital bank licences to be issued in Singapore, where the ride-sharing operator and telco will be looking to target "digital-first" consumers and small and mid-sized businesses. The two partners have plans to form a joint entity, with Grab to own a 60% stake if they receive a licence. 

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