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Speech By Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister for Finance, At The Official Opening of Hai Leck Holdings Limited Corporate Headquarters And Production Plant & 35th Anniversary Celebration

07 May 2010

Mr Cheng Buck Poh,
Chairman, Hai Leck Holdings Limited,

Mr Lee See Kee,
Chief Executive Officer, Hai Leck Holdings Limited,

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.    I am very pleased to join you this morning. The opening of this new corporate headquarters and production plant in Tuas, equipped with state-of-the-art shot-blasting technology, signifies a new stage of growth for Hai Leck Holdings. Congratulations to the management and staff of Hai Leck on this important milestone, which also comes as you celebrate your 35th anniversary.

Hai Leck as the story of a breed of successful Singapore SMEs

2.    Hai Leck Holding’s story is that of the breed of local SMEs with humble beginnings in the early years of Singapore’s economic development, who have survived in a competitive and unprotected local market, worked with global players in Singapore and developed capabilities that have made them serious regional players today. It is the story of the successful local SME.

3.    Hai Leck itself started as a small company providing traditional corrosion prevention services in the 1970s. It has transformed itself over the years - by investing in new technologies, upgrading its people and developing advanced new capabilities. In so doing it has grown to become a leading, regional integrated service provider, with global companies such as ExxonMobil and Shell among its clients. Today, Hai Leck Holdings provides employment to more than 1,800 people across the region, with about 1,600 of them based in Singapore.

4.    However, behind each of these accounts of successful SMEs is the story of an entrepreneur. Hai Leck owes much of its growth to the drive and entrepreneurial skills of Mr Cheng Buck Poh. He worked extremely hard, developed his team, took calculated risks at each stage of the company’s growth, and kept sharpening its competitive edge.

Taking advantage of the next decade

5.    Our SMEs have shown resilience in the face of the crisis of the last two years. The next decade will offer them large opportunities. A major driver of growth will be the emerging markets and Asia in particular. These are markets which are seeing rapidly growing demand in sectors in which Singapore companies have strong capabilities, including infrastructural services and urban environmental solutions.

6.    It is therefore a decade that provides us with an important window of opportunity to grow, expand our footprint, and establish leading positions in market niches in the region and further afield. We should set our sights high, and work together to achieve this.

7.    I am glad to learn that Hai Leck Holdings has been pursuing regional opportunities since the 80s. Its wholly-owned, maintenance engineering subsidiary in Thailand has been winning projects because of its technical competencies, track record and efficient project management. Hai Leck experience is again similar to that of many other Singapore SMEs which have successfully internationalized their operations - by focusing on niches in which they have technical or other capabilities, and seeking to differentiate the value proposition they offer to customers in a competitive marketplace.

8.    I encourage our SMEs to take full advantage of the schemes the Government has introduced and enhanced, to help them grow and internationalise. For example, the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) introduced in this year’s Budget will provide an unprecedented level of tax deduction to support their investments in innovation and upgrading their operations. The PIC focus benefits on our SMEs. We are also investing close to $400 million over the next five years to strengthen partnerships between MNCs and local companies and to support for our business associations as they work with SMEs to help them grow. There will also be substantial grant support through the National Productivity and Continuing Education Council for industry efforts to upgrade productivity.

9.    By developing partnerships, such as within the process industry and petrochemicals cluster, and taking full advantage of the Government’s support schemes, we can now develop deep capabilities amongst our firms that will give them solid advantages in regional and global markets.


10.    On this note, let me take this opportunity to wish Hai Leck Holdings sustained progress in the years to come as you continue to pursue growth opportunities here and overseas.