“I J M ’ S C O N STRUCTION OR­DER B O O K I S AT A N ALL-TIME HIGH AND THIS WILL UN­DER­PIN OUR TOP AND B OTTOM LINES FOR THE COM­ING YEARS. ”

The Peak (Malaysia) - - World Watch -

It’s hardly the kind of news any newly minted head of a top con­glom­er­ate would want to hear but, when Dato’ Soam Heng Choon as­cended to the top spot of IJM Cor­po­ra­tion, a pub­li­ca­tion had in­cluded his name on a list of 14 new CEOs whose ap­point­ments co­in­cided with the start of what was to be a chal­leng­ing eco­nomic cy­cle. Lean and wiry, but soft-spo­ken and with a gen­tle de­meanour, Dato’ Soam did not de­mur. “Look­ing back, what they wrote wasn’t wrong. For the last six con­sec­u­tive quar­ters, our coun­try’s GDP has been on the de­cline, given ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment pres­sures. We are, with­out doubt, in a chal­leng­ing pe­riod but, thank­fully, IJM Cor­po­ra­tion, as a Group, is di­ver­si­fied so, al­though some di­vi­sions are fac­ing head­winds, oth­ers are do­ing well.” REIN­VENT­ING FOR SUC­CESS Do­ing well seems to be a bit of an un­der­state­ment if its 2016 fi­nan­cial re­sults are any­thing to go by. A quick glance at the num­bers show a Group Mar­ket Cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion of MYR12.56bil­lion (as at 30 June 2016), Group To­tal As­sets of MYR19.84bil­lion (as at 31 March 2016) and, a fig­ure to soothe sore eyes, a Group Profit Be­fore Tax of MYR1,155.80mil­lion (as at 31 March 2016), de­not­ing an in­crease of 13 per cent from the year be­fore – pretty sweet, con­sid­er­ing the over­all eco­nomic cli­mate. “For IJM cur­rently, our con­struc­tion or­der book is at an all-time high and this will un­der­pin our top and bot­tom lines for the next three years at least,” he smiles. “If you were to draw a pie chart, I’d say that con­struc­tion and prop­erty for the Group are now about even, and this will help pump us for the next two years.”

The Group, un­der Dato’ Soam’s watch, is also in the midst of ex­e­cut­ing the two big­gest projects ever in its cor­po­rate his­tory: the first be­ing the mas­sive MYR5­bil­lion West Coast Ex­press­way ( WCE) project, which will link Bant­ing to Taip­ing and will be Penin­su­lar Malaysia’s third long­est high­way af­ter the North- South Ex­press­way and the East Coast High­way, while stim­u­lat­ing growth in key ar­eas of Se­lan­gor and Perak via the pro­vi­sion of greater and more ef­fi­cient ac­ces­si­bil­ity. The sec­ond, this time on the other side of the Ti­ti­wangsa moun­tain range, is a new Deep Wa­ter Ter­mi­nal in Pa­hang’s Kuan­tan Port, which is still in its in­fancy stage. “Th­ese projects, in­clud­ing a new big job for the MRT Line 2, will un­der­line IJM’s growth tra­jec­tory for the next few years.” THE LEARN­ING CURVE Blessed with a su­perb mind (Dato’ Soam is a First Class Hon­ours Civil En­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ate from the Univer­sity of Strath­clyde), it’s hardly sur­pris­ing that he ex­horts his team to never stop learn­ing – some­thing he puts to prac­tice daily him­self. “Just as Thomas Fried­man wrote, the world is get­ting flat­ter in­deed,” he stresses. “Any­thing that im­pacts an­other coun­try will ef­fect us in Malaysia, whether you like it or not. Hence, it’s im­por­tant to keep abreast of cur­rent de­vel­op­ments, things like dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion and smart town­ships. I en­joy read­ing and, if I find a great book, I’d en­cour­age my team to read it as well. In fact, dur­ing last year’s Se­nior Man­age­ment Fo­rum, I gave out a book on lead­er­ship and ex­e­cu­tion to all my heads of di­vi­sion.”

This thirst for knowl­edge has cer­tainly helped Dato’ Soam in his life’s jour­ney, which started out very humbly. “My fam­ily and I lived in a squat­ter area,” he shares. “I was the fifth of seven chil­dren and my fa­ther painted cars for a liv­ing. My mother didn’t work ini­tially but, as the fam­ily grew, she too found a job to help sup­port us all. So, all of us

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