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Ho Ching is 3rd most powerful woman: Forbes
German chancellor Merkel, Chinese V-P Wu Yi take first and second spots

Temasek Holdings executive director and CEO Ho Ching has been named the world's third-most powerful woman by Forbes, which called her 'a force to be reckoned with, as her deal-making ambitions span the globe'.

Only German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi are ahead of Ms Ho in Forbes's 2007 list of 100 Most Powerful Women.

Ms Ho's No 3 placing this year is a big jump from her 36th rank last year. It comes after Time magazine named her one of the world's 100 most influential people this year.

On Ms Ho's increasing clout in the business arena, Forbes said: 'Ho Ching has been credited with converting Temasek from a Singapore-focused firm to a leading investor in Asia, making investments in Indian and Chinese companies, primarily in the telecoms and banking sectors.

'Thanks to Ho Ching's deal-making, the net value of Temasek's portfolio grew 27 per cent to $108 billion from $80 billion the previous year.'

Related link:
Click here for Forbes' list of the World's Most Powerful Women

Forbes also cited Temasek's recently announced plan to invest in Barclays to support the British bank's attempted takeover of ABN Amro, the Netherlands' largest bank.

It called Temasek's takeover of Thailand's Shin Corp just a blip on its track record.

German leader Angela Merkel retained top spot on the list of powerful women this year. Forbes said that she was 'growing increasingly comfortable with using her clout'.

Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi moved up one place for her role in 'overseeing an economy set to displace Germany as the third-largest, while staring down US trade protectionists'.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dropped two places to No 4, thanks to her position 'at the centre of the negative reaction worldwide to the Bush administration's policies', Forbes said.

Business executives dominate the latest list of powerful women. Sixty-six personalities from the corporate arena made the top 100, versus 29 from politics and just five from non-profit and media empires.

Eleven Asian women made the list. Most are from China, such as People's Bank of China deputy governor Wu Xiaoling at No 18 and the World Health Organisation's director-general, Margaret Chan, at No 37.

Other powerful Asian women on the list include Indian political leader Sonia Gandhi at No 6, Philippine president Gloria Arroyo at No 51 and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from Myanmar at No 71.

Forbes noted the increased presence of Middle Eastern women on the list - such as Maha Al-Ghunaim, chairman of Kuwait's Global Investment House at No 72 and Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of the Economy in the United Arab Emirates, at No 99.

There are 16 newcomers to the list this year. The highest-ranking new entrant is Anglo American chief executive Cynthia Carroll, at No 7.

Among media personalities, TV host Oprah Winfrey continues to dominate. She was placed 21st this year, down seven spots from her 2006 ranking.

Forbes said that it ranked the women based on a combination of their visibility - measured by press citations - and economic impact. Economic impact includes career achievements and titles, size of the economic sphere over which they hold sway and a multiplier that aims to make different financial yardsticks comparable.

The full list of Forbes's 100 Most Powerful Women of 2007 can be found at www.forbes.com/women.    - SINGAPORE BUSINESS TIMES    2007 September 1

Publicity-shy wife will have to get used to the spotlight

The wife of Singapore's new prime minister is a powerful but publicity-shy business executive who controls a multibillion-dollar global investment portfolio.

But Ho Ching, 51, the executive director and chief executive officer of Singapore's hugely profitable state investment arm Temasek Holdings, will now have to get used to the international limelight.

She was ranked 18th this month in Fortune magazine's list of Asia's 25 most powerful businesspeople, whose number included Li Ka-shing, Sony's Noboyuki Idei and Fujio Cho of Toyota Motors.

Established in 1974, Temasek manages a diversified portfolio, including investments in India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia and the United States. Temasek-linked entities include Singapore Airlines, Singapore Telecommunications, DBS Bank, Neptune Orient Lines and Keppel Corp. Even Singapore Zoo is owned by Temasek.

Eyebrows were raised when Ms Ho was appointed to Temasek in May 2002 because her husband was - and will remain - finance minister, which puts him in a supervisory role over Temasek.

But the mother of four has dismissed suggestions of potential conflicts of interest.

"The issue of conflict does not arise because there are no vested interests. Our goal is to do what makes sense for Singapore," she said in a rare interview with The Straits Times after her appointment.

"As finance minister, he does not make decisions unilaterally, and he is part of a team," Ms Ho said. "I don't always agree with him and he doesn't always agree with me. We have a healthy debate."

Ms Ho, who shuns corporate power-dressing, was an elite government scholar and US-trained electrical engineer who rose up the ranks of the civil service.

She married Mr Lee in 1985 when she was with the Ministry of Defence and he had just left the armed forces with the rank of brigadier-general to enter politics. - AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE   2004   August 13

   >>  Wall Street Journal  - Running the Show

At home with 'Singapore's most influential woman'

"We need to change from driving a Volkswagen to a Formula 1 racing car to compete with the best in the world."         - Ms Ho Ching, newly appointed executive director of  Temasek Holdings, on her plans to give a shot in the investment-holding arm of the Government

As executive director of Temasek Holdings and wife of Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Ho Ching is seen by many as the most influential woman in Singapore.

But at home, Ms Ho, 49, grapples with the same issues faced by most mothers and home-makers. The chief one is managing her four children who are on the cusp of young adulthood.

'That's the ultimate challenge in terms of customer service,' was how she put it.

'Trying to be fair to them is such a difficult task. They're already not wanting to go on holidays with you,' she told journalists at a lunch yesterday.

Reflecting on her marriage into the Lee family - she married Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew's eldest son in 1985 - Ms Ho said: 'I didn't feel like I was marrying into an exceptional family. You take them as they are. When you talk about exceptional families, there are many, many exceptional families.'

The Lees were recently described by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong as an 'exceptional family'.

Leadership qualities aside, the Lee family at play are like most other families. 'The rowdiest generation is the youngest generation and the grandparents will go 'Errm . .',' Ms Ho said.

What's Mr Lee, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, like outside the office?

'He's humorous. He's very kind. I think he shares a passion for Singapore. He's also my computer systems manager at home.'

Ms Ho also had warm words for her father-in-law. 'He's very good. He's perceptive. I think he's one person who, amidst his responsibilities, still cares for his family. Not in a domineering way, but just as a parent and as a friend,' she said.

Asked why she turned down an offer PM Goh once made to her - before she married Mr Lee - to run as Member of Parliament, she said she initially felt she was not ready. 'Later, when you get married, you say: Okay, one politician in your family is enough,' she said.

Asked about the future, Ms Ho said she has nursed ambitions to take on three issues in her career - education, economics and defence.

Her stint in defence was fulfilled as a Ministry of Defence military engineer, while her role in economics is still being played out at Temasek and the various boards she serves on.

That leaves education. If she had her way, she would 'turn the education system topsy-turvy' as the current school system doesn't recognise the multi-faceted dimension of a child's talents.

Ms Ho mused that she might one day run a private school but declined to say more. All she would say was that it would be 'something that can be interesting for the mind in retirement'. - By David Boey     Singapore Business Times     27 June 2002

The new 'Temasek Charter' of the government's investment holding company may call for some parts of its diverse stable to be rationalised or culled, while others are encouraged to 'push ahead'.

Disclosing this yesterday, Ho Ching, the newly-appointed executive director of Temasek Holdings, said the charter - its newly minted corporate philosophy - will urge its people to think about 'over-the-horizon' issues and build a future of successful enterprises. Speaking to journalists at a media lunch, she said the charter should be released in about two weeks.

'We're definitely moving from being a passive shareholder to where we can add and create value,' she said. But being less passive doesn't mean Temasek will dabble with the day-to-day issues in its companies. 'We see ourselves as a catalyst. That's why we don't use words like 'hands on' because it gives a totally wrong image.'

The Singapore Technologies stalwart was made Temasek's executive director on May 1. Quizzed about what changes she has in mind, Ms Ho said: 'In any place, particularly in a time like this where there are enormous changes, you have to change. The issue is what do you want to change.'

She added: 'There's an old Chinese saying that the reputation of a general rests on the bones of 10,000 men. Unless you are conscious of that price, you may get into foolish battles.' She made clear that her role is not to get involved in day-to-day operations - 'whether they should buy this machine or that'.

'I get involved in talking about trends and where you want to go. It's not me providing the answers but teasing the answers from them,' she said. 'It's this juicing up of the grey cells we are interested in doing.'

This soul-searching process should allow its managers to steer through rough patches in their business cycles, said Ms Ho. 'You should begin to turn the ship now, rather than when you are about to hit a rock.'

Brainstorming sessions will be augmented by inputs from foreign-based advisers. Building on a practice at the Singapore Technologies group, where she served for many years, about 20 per cent of board members of Temasek companies can be expected to be foreign-based, with the remainder drawn from Singapore's private sector.

Ms Ho said Temasek's people will have to think about issues 10 to 20 years from now. The aim is to build future streams of business for future generations. And this requires thinking ahead - 'What can go wrong, what can go right? What's coming up on the edge of the radar screen that could have some impact later?' Ms Ho also fielded questions on how her marriage to Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, could affect her work at Temasek. 'I like to think that what I do is delinked from what he does,' she said. For the moment, Ms Ho feels sufficient safeguards are in place to ensure conflicts of personal interests do not crop up. 'Your goal is to do what makes sense for Singapore. Then the issue of conflict of interest does not arise.' Ms Ho said there could be '20 people watching a person' but if that person's integrity is flawed, then 'no system in the world can stop a guy from doing bad'.

Another safeguard: Ms Ho and Mr Lee don't decide on issues unilaterally as there is a committee to oversee Temasek. 'I don't always agree with him. He doesn't always agree with me,' she said.

Asked about the lacklustre performance of some blue-chip Temasek companies, like Singapore Telecom whose shares hit record lows recently, Ms Ho said GLCs must have their eye on long-term issues. 'I think if we start managing with an eye on short-term share price gyrations, it will lead to a situation where we are not building the business on a sustainable basis. We have to manage the business for a sustainable future.'  - By David Boey    Singapore Straits Times     27 June 2002


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