Malaysia’s Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd, the world’s third-largest palm plantation operator, said it was replacing its CEO – a surprise move that comes after a failed controversial deal last year for it to buy into Indonesia’s Rajawali Group.
Current Chief Executive Mohd Emir Mavani Abdullah, who has been in the job for three years, will be succeeded in April by the head of its downstream operations, Zakaria Arshad, a Felda Group veteran of 32 years, the company said in a statement.
It did not give a reason for the change.
Last year plans for Felda Global to buy 37 percent of palm oil plantation firm PT Eagle High Plantations Tbk collapsed after politicians and investors blasted a $680 million deal as an expensive favour for Indonesian tycoon Peter Sondakh, who controls the debt-burdened Rajawali Group, including Eagle High.
Sondakh has long-standing ties with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Both Najib and Sondakh have said that the deal was commercially driven.
Seeking to avoid further investor criticism, the wider Felda Group, a state-owned conglomerate, is now re-attempting to close the deal using an unlisted unit and is also seeking to cut the price by as much as 30 percent, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters last month.
Felda Global shares were up 1.4 percent after the announcement. The stock has fallen over 14 percent this year, hurt by the global downturn in commodity prices.
Zakaria is also the vice chairman of the Palm Oil Refiners Association Of Malaysia and sits on the Malaysian Palm Oil Council board of trustees.