Temasek, the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund, has appointed its first non-native chief executive. The former BHP Billiton boss Charles "Chip" Goodyear will take over from the incumbent, Ho Ching (wife of Singapore's Prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong) in October.
Temasek has been run by a Singaporean throughout its 34-year history, but the fund is understood to be keen to build a more international image, particularly given that the turmoil on global financial markets has hit the value of many of its investments.
The wealth fund is also keen to make an aggressive move into resources, a push for which Mr Goodyear is ideally suited. He ran BHP, the world's largest mining company, from 2003 to January 2008, and is remembered as anacquisitive CEO with a penchant forinvestments in China.
Mr Goodyear surprised the market in 2005 when BHP paid $7bn in cash for rival WMC Resources, swooping in at the last minute to outbid arch-rival Xstrata and picking up Olympic Dam in the bargain. BHP bought at a time when many believed commodity prices had peaked, but they continued rising for two more years.
Temasek is the smaller of Singapore's two sovereign wealth funds. The larger vehicle, GIC, manages an estimated $300bn, while Temasek had assets worth $123bn in March 2008. At that time, Temasek held 40 per cent of its portfolio in financials, and is nursing losses from high-profile investments in banks such as Merrill Lynch and Barclays. Temasek's $5bn investment in Merrill alone resulted in a paper loss of more than $2bn. The investment vehicle also owns 3.8 per cent of Bank of America, which eventually took over Merrill.
Other investments in the sector have been more successful – it owns almost a fifth of Standard Chartered – but Temasek has been viewed in some quarters as too close to the Singaporegovernment, in part because of Ms Ho's relationship with the Prime Minister. That perception has made some countries wary about Temasek investing in its assets, although in Singapore, the fund controls some of the country's biggest companies, including Singapore Airlines and Singapore Telecom.