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Tycoon 'Bob' Hasan tipped to take key role in Astra

Reuters - February 19, 1997

Jakarta – Business tycoon Muhammad "Bob" Hasan, a close associate of Indonesia's President Suharto, is tipped to take a key role in the country's largest carmaker PT Astra International, brokers and analysts said yesterday.

Brokers said there was intense market talk that Mr Hasan would be appointed chief commissioner of Astra, maker of the nation's most popular Kijang car, at the company's extraordinary general meeting (EGM) today.

"It is believed widely that he is the strongest candidate for commissioner," a broker with a Japanese securities firm said.

But he said the speculation on changes in Astra's board of commissioners was no longer affecting sentiment in shares of the firm, which dominates the local car market with the Toyota, Daihatsu, Isuzu, BMW, Peugeot and Nissan brands.

Astra also makes Honda motorcycles.

"It is a sound company which is doing very well and so far it's a widely held public company in Indonesia," the broker said.

"The changes, I believe, will not have much impact on its bottom line."

But brokers said the market would be more interested in changes in the company's day-to-day management as there was speculation that the current president director, Mr Theodore Permadi Rachmat, had decided to step down.

"I have heard that finance director Rini Suwandi is the strongest candidate for president director," a broker said.

If Ms Suwandi, who has headed Astra's corporate finance department since 1990, rose to the top job, she would be one of few Indonesian women to head a major listed company. Mr David O'Neil, analyst at BZW Niaga Securities, said changes in Astra's board of commissioners could add value to the firm.

"In terms of earnings growth, Astra will do well superbly for the next three or four years," he said.

But he added that while it might be difficult for the board of commissioners to enhance directly the earnings growth, they could play a key role in business development.

He said that there would be discussions on business development such as Astra's wood-based industries, its non-core assets and the flotation of its subsidiaries.

They are going to have a view on those issues, he added.

Yesterday, Bisnis Indonesia newspaper quoted Mr Hasan as saying it was up to the majority shareholders to appoint Astra's commissioners.

He said in future Astra should be developed in such a way as to give benefit to Indonesia in general.

"For the automotive industry, we will increase the use of local components and boost exports," he was quoted as saying.

The EGM is the first since major changes in Astra International's ownership late last year.

Mr Hasan's Nusamba group now holds 10 per cent of Astra's stock, the largest single stake in the company.

Nusamba is 80 per cent owned by charitable foundations headed by President Suharto.