Monday March 11, 2013
Restaurateur Siew holds stake in Scomi besides sitting on Ipmuda, Perwaja and Kinsteel boards
By NG BEI SHAN
Who was Siew and what was he up to, having at one point, accumulated up to 73 million shares in the oil and gas concern, equivalent to a 5.5% stake.
In addition, Siew and his ally, well-known corporate player Tan Sri Abu Sahid Mohamed had collectively owned some 13% of Scomi Group.
Siew and Abu Sahid both had voiced concern over the company's significant share placement and convertible bond subscription agreement with IJM Corp Bhd.
To recap, a deal had been struck between Scomi and IJM for the later to emerge with a 10% stake in Scomi last September. Subsequently, Scomi shareholders approved a bond issuance to IJM worth RM110mil, which when converted, would give IJM a 24% stake in Scomi.
Siew had clarified to the media that he wasn't exactly opposed to IJM's entry per se but was raising the question of whether the dilution caused by its entry was justified.
Siew is now taking a wait-and-see attitude in Scomi to see what value IJM brings into Scomi. (Both Siew and Abu Sahid continue to hold their stakes in Scomi.)
“Shareholders are more aware and pro-active now. We want to have a bigger say,” Siew tells StarBiz.
He adds: “We will track what is happening continually and will try to contribute if and when the need arises. All we want to see is the company (Scomi) doing well.”
Siew also sits on the boards of Ipmuda Bhd, Perwaja Holdings Bhd and Kinsteel Bhd as an independent director, and is also a substantial shareholder and deputy chairman of Australian miner Avalon Minerals Ltd.
But aside from his corporate plays, board memberships and shareholder activist role, Siew has quietly been gaining more prominence as a successful restaurateur. He is the main guy behind the Oriental Group of Restaurants. This is the chain that includes such notable outlets as the Ming Room in Bangsar Shopping Complex, Noble House in Bukit Bintangand Oriental Pavilion at Jaya 33, Petaling Jaya.
The Oriental restaurants specialise in what they refer to as “fine Cantonese cuisine”. According to its website, patrons are “given a different dimension to savoring traditional Chinese fare, with the infusion of artistic touches during food presentations and the use of fresh ingredients.”
The model must be working: the group recorded a turnover of some RM80mil last year and with more than RM10mil in pre-tax profits, says Siew.
Siew is co-founder, executive chairman and is the group's single largest shareholder with 37%.
Siew is no stranger to the restaurant business, although admits it isn't a life-long ambition but more like something that he stumbled into. Siew, who had spent a number of years at Price Waterhouse & Co (now known as PricewaterhouseCoopers or PwC) had been asked to help out in the running of the Tai Thong group of restaurants by his late father-in-law. That was in the early 1980s. Siew then used his corporate knowledge gained from his PwC experience and expanded the group, ultimately listing it in 1997 under TT Resources Bhd. Siew has since sold out of the group and that's when he started up the Oriental group, with its first restaurant being The Oriental in the old Jaya Shopping Centre, Section 14, Petaling Jaya, in the year 2000.
Other shareholders of the Oriental Group, he says, are made up of business partners as well as ex-staff from Tai Thong.
True to this corporate style of trying to keep all shareholders happy, Siew says Oriental Group has been paying 50% of its earnings to shareholders.
Siew says said his stint of six years at PwC had shaped his management style especially in terms of financial discipline and management system.
“I learned to get it right through years of sweat and tears. My past experience in running a restaurant has allowed me to avoid pitfalls in the current business,” he said.
He also emphasised the fact that the success isn't his doing alone. “Its all in the people I have. We are in the service industry and the people element in it is pertinent”.
Siew and his Oriental Group recently pulled off another coup. They were selected to be partners in an upscale, state-of-the-art restaurant smack in the heart of Singapore. The newly-opened restaurant is called ME@OUE and sits on the rooftop of the OUE Bayfront building at Collyer Quay.
Oriental Group of Restaurants is the only Malaysian partner that is part of this grand collaboration between the Indonesian Lippo Group-owned but Singaporean-based property firm Overseas Union Enterprise Ltd and Singapore media giant MediaCorp Pte Ltd. The restaurant boasts three cuisines in one a Chinese kitchen run by Siew's company, along with Michelin-starred chefs who lead the Japanese and French kitchens.
When asked how it was chosen to be part of this star-studded restaurant, he said: “I won't say that we are the best but we definitely have something different to offer.”
Siew remains excited about the group's involvement in ME@OUE as it has a fresh concept of marrying dining with live entertainment, and where diners get to rub shoulders with celebrities and corporate big wigs.
Going forward, Siew has set his sights further. He says he's looking at the possibility of venturing into markets such as Indonesia, Thailand and China. But a listing of Oriental Group isn't on the cards right now, says Siew, who is focused on growing the group bigger for now.