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New management makes over Malaysia Inc

A flurry of activity marked the first year of new management at Khazanah, Malaysia's state-owned investment arm. Tough decisions have been made and tougher rules set. But the job is far from complete and success may prove elusive. Chris Leahy reports from Kuala Lumpur

Azman: places the
emphasis on performance

The axe man cometh DATO' AZMAN HJ MOKHTAR, managing director of Malaysia's state investment company Khazanah Nasional Berhad, peers from the window of his office in the Petronas Twin Towers at the thick haze that has descended on Kuala Lumpur.

"So much for transparency!" he says with a laugh.

KL might have disappeared beneath the smog from forest fires but Khazanah is basking in the sunlight of a fresh management approach. Once secretive and opaque, the company has transformed its approach to the outside world since Azman was appointed in May 2004, with an emphasis on greater transparency and accountability.

Much is expected of ex-banker Azman, formerly research head at UBS and Salomon Brothers in Malaysia. Announcing Khazanah's revamp in May 2004, prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi described the proposals as "Nothing less than a remaking of Malaysia Inc...[we] would like to see Khazanah emerge as one of the biggest and most dynamic investment houses in the region".

In order to give rise to Badawi's rather grand vision, Azman is pursuing what he describes as a four-pillar strategy: streamlining and restructuring legacy investments, transforming government-linked companies, initiating new sector-specific cross-border investments and applying what is euphemistically called human capital management, by which he means hiring brighter staff.

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