manosabnani4.14Mano Sabnani. NextInsight file photo.How could it happen in this day and age? Train services disrupted due to power outage? What happened to the standby power or UPS?


Too bad for SMRT it had to happen just hours after a well-attended Annual General Meeting of shareholders from 2.30pm at Raffles City.

Some groused about the services. Questions were asked about the high pay of the CEO Desmond Kuek (who enjoyed a big increase to more than $2.25m last year) and whether it was justified given that SMRT was quite far in profitability from its heyday in 2011.

Chairman Koh Yong Guan defended the payout, saying it was a tough business to run, notwithstanding the poor returns.

SMRT lost money in its bus and LRT operations. Engineering services too. Train services made small money relative to scale of the operations.

The bread and butter really came from the rental of shops around MRT stations and advertising in trains and stations. Some $100m -- the lion's share -- in operating profit was derived from these segments.

More money is being spent on improving the performance of its rail lines and rolling stock. But we're not quite there it seems, given the total breakdown of its main North- South and East-West Lines this evening (7 July).

Everyone had to go back to buses. They appear to be more reliable than trains these days!


Mano Sabnani is the Chairman and CEO of Rafflesia Holdings, a company he founded in 2008 to pursue opportunities in the media and financial sectors. He was the Chief Editor of Singapore‚Äôs Business Times from 1986 to 1992. From May 1992 to the close of 1995, he was the Managing Editor of The Straits Times. From January 1996 to August 1997, Mano was the Director of Research at DBS Securities. He then moved on to be the MD for Investments at Individual Banking, DBS. Mano also served as the MD for Equity Capital Markets, DBS Bank from July 2000 to June 2001 when he left to join Corporate Brokers International as Executive Director. He was CEO and Editor-in-Chief of daily newspaper TODAY from April 2003. He had developed the paper into the second most read in Singapore by the time he left in Nov 2006. 

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