Chow quits Brambles for return to Hong Kong

Sir CK Chow quit yesterday as chief executive of the pallets and waste disposal group Brambles to return to his native Hong Kong where he is to become head of the territory's public transport system.

He is being replaced by Brambles' finance director David Turner, who had been due to leave the Sydney-based group as well at the end of next year but has now agreed to stay on as chief executive.

Although Sir CK's departure follows a series of setbacks at Brambles, culminating in a profit warning in November last year and an admission earlier this year that it had "lost" 14 million pallets, the company insisted he was leaving of his own accord.

There were suggestions that Sir CK, 52, had never felt entirely comfortable in Australia, partly because of his Hong Kong Chinese origins.

He said of his departure: "I am looking forward to returning home to become chief executive of a company so integral to Hong Kong."

In Hong Kong Sir CK will become chief executive of MTR Corporation, the £4.3bn group which owns and operates the territory's mass transit system and also has extensive property interests.

He will receive a payment of £182,770 on his departure but will forfeit all share options. He will retain his performance share rights but these are worthless at present because the group is not expected to hit the targets which would trigger payment of the shares.

The Sydney-based but dual-listed Brambles was created out of the demerger two years ago of GKN's pallet and waste divisions from its automotive and aerospace activities.

Brambles has suffered since from the global economic downturn and the legacy of overspending and lax cash controls when it was still part of GKN, and a wide-ranging overhaul of the group is now being carried out. Other setbacks included delayed contracts and service centre fires.

Mr Turner, 58, said significant progress had already been made and the turnaround of the Chep pallets business was on track. The company is now looking for a new finance director to succeed Mr Turner, who officially takes over as chief executive on 20 October.

The departure of Sir CK means that the two halves of the demerged GKN have now both lost their chief executives. Marcus Beresford retired earlier this year as chief executive of GKN, handing over to Kevin Smith.

Brambles was the subject of takeover speculation last week with dealers in Sydney suggesting that General Electric of the US and the Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers had the company in their sights.

The group said it was not involved in any discussions, nor had it received any bid approaches. Brambles shares closed 5.25p lower in London at 174p.

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