Business

Hyflux boss will now get just $1 a year

Debt-stricken company also says a new white-knight has appeared

The highly paid boss of Hyflux will now get just $1 a year as she tries to save the debt-laden water treatment company.

Chief executive Olivia Lum made the disclosure in an affidavit yesterday, the same day the firm announced that a new white-knight has appeared on the horizon bearing a possible $400 million lifeline.

Ms Lum stated: "I have decided that henceforth, I will only draw a nominal $1 annual salary until Hyflux is successfully restructured."

She added that the board has agreed that no director fees will be proposed at the next annual general meeting.

Ms Lum's hefty compensation over the years has been a sticking point with some investors.

The Securities Investor Association (Singapore) or Sias flagged earlier this year that she had reaped more than $60 million in dividends "in the time that shareholders and bond holders have seen their entire investment destroyed".

In 2017, when Hyflux reported losses of $115.6 million, Ms Lum received between $750,000 and $1 million in salary, benefits and bonuses, Sias noted.

Ms Lum's move yesterday was a small part of a wider development that could see a new deep-pocketed investor come on board.

Hyflux described the potential investor as a developer and owner of water and power utilities based in the Middle East with a reputable track record, but its exchange filing yesterday did not identify the firm.

The money will be used for equity and working capital and possible urgent interim funding, the filing noted, adding that the potential investor has issued Hyflux with a non-binding letter of intent.

The new deal is among other plans Hyflux is discussing with potential overseas investors.

Its filing also noted that a group of banks want the High Court to place Hyflux and its subsidiary Hydrochem under judicial management, or at least an interim one.

The banks are Mizuho Bank, KfW IPEX-Bank, Bangkok Bank Public Company, BNP Paribas, CTBC Bank, The Korea Development Bank as well as The Korea Development Bank Singapore branch.

If the banks are successful in their court application, an independent judicial manager will be appointed to take control of the company to help it stave off liquidation.

Associate Professor Lawrence Loh of the National University of Singapore said the banks' request is a sign that they are concerned about Hyflux as a going concern.

However, he added that the potential new deal was a positive development.

"It is good that all options can also be on the table now, including that of a white knight. Any option is better than no option."

BUSINESS & FINANCE