Despite having acquired Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) for only less than a year, French company CMA CGM has turned the ailing shipping giant profitable… a feat that high profile former military man Ng Yat Chung, who was a Lieutenant General and Chief of Armed Forces, could not do in his 5 year term as head of the struggling national line.

NOL was sold to CMA CGM in June 2016, a move much lamented by Singaporeans as the company is seen as one of a number of declining local industrial brand names. NOL has reportedly posted a first quarterly net profit of US$26 million, an upbeat indicator that has eluded investors since the company’s troubles started in 2011.

However, not every one is happy with the company’s return to profitability, especially since the French success with the shipping line seems to suggest some form of failure on the part of its former Singaporean executive board.

In 2016, when handing over the reigns of the company to CMA CGM, former CEO Ng Yat Chung told investors that the company just could not “compete on costs”.

“The market growth has slowed down, there is severe overcapacity, so we had to recognise that the business model needed change,” he told the press then. “We didn’t have the right cost position in an industry that was becoming more and more commoditised.”

Ng is now thhe Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Singapore Institute of Technology and a Trustee of the National University of Singapore. He is also an independent director to Singapore Press Holdings and a member of the Singapore Power board.

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