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Keppel in $3.4b deal to take SPH private after media business is hived off (Money FM)

Aug 4, 2021


Keppel Corp was one of the first companies I covered as an analyst more than 20 years ago. Quite frankly, it was a nightmare for a rookie as it had at least 7 listed subsidiaries – Keppel TatLee Bank, Keppel Land, Keppel T&T, Keppel Shipyard, Keppel Hitachi Zosen, Keppel Marine and Keppel FELS. During results season, I would struggle till 4am to complete the earnings report, and get back to work at 7am to present to my sales team. I shudder at the thought of working on the financial model of this sprawling conglomerate.

Conglomerates were sexy back in the 1990s and traded at premiums to their book values. But they lost their lustre before I entered the industry, and ended up being slapped with discounts thereafter.

Former CEO Lim Chee Onn was credited to have led the transformation of the group in 2000, selling off businesses (like Keppel TatLee to OCBC) and merging all of the offshore & marine firms. The wheels were set in motion by his predecessor – the legendary Sim Kee Boon – when Keppel announced in 1998 that it planned to merge or sell about 50 of its 600 units!

Keppel evidently subscribes to go big or go home. Hence, I wasn’t surprised at the move to take over SPH’s non-media business. I was quite happy to share my thoughts with the media on this matter – just as long as I don’t have to work on the financial model.