DBS chief Tai resigns after string of bad news

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SINGAPORE, Sep 24 (Reuters) Singapore's DBS Group , Southeast Asia's biggest lender, said on Monday that its Chief Executive Officer Jackson Tai will step down for family reasons, coming after a string of bad news has hit its shares.

DBS said Tai would step down by the end of the year to ''spend time with his family in the United States''. DBS shares closed 3.47 percent higher after underperforming sector peers this year.

Shares in DBS have fallen over 7 percent this year, compared to a gain of 15 percent for domestic peer OCBC and 12 percent for UOB over the same period.

Last month DBS surprised investors saying that its exposure to risky collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) was nearly double what it had initially declared. Earlier this month, DBS failed to raise its 16 percent stake in Thailand's TMB Bank .

The bank said in a statement that Tai would relinquish his post as CEO and vice-chairman towards the end of the year, adding that it had started an ''extensive global search'' for his replacement.

DBS chairman Koh Boon Hwee will have an ''active management oversight role'' before Tai's successor is found, the bank added.

''For more than eight years, I have dedicated myself to DBS and Singapore, even as my family remained in the States. There's never a perfect time to leave but having been CEO for five years, I believe it's now right for me to catch up with my family,'' Tai, 57, said in a statement.

Tai, a Chinese American who grew up in New York's Chinatown, joined the bank in 1999 as its chief financial officer before assuming roles as its president and chief operating officer.

The former JPMorgan banker tried to use his more than two decades of investment banking experience by exploring acquisitions for DBS in China and South Korea, some of which remained elusive.

In 2001, DBS acquired Hong Kong's Dao Heng Bank. Tai, who was bank president then, called the deal an important step toward building the Singapore lender into an ''Asian powerhouse.'' But analysts said DBS had overpaid for the acquisition with its S billion (.65 billion) offer for the Hong Kong lender -- three times its book value.

Last year, Tai told Reuters in an interview that he hoped that DBS, which earns virtually all of its profits in Singapore and Hong Kong, would earn half of its revenue overseas in three to five years. [ID:nSIN114729] DBS chairman Koh, who will run the bank and lead the search for a new CEO, became DBS chairman on January 1, 2006, replacing former cabinet minister S Dhanabalan. He also sits on the board of Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings [TEM.UL], which owns 28 percent of the Singapore lender.

The politically well-connected Koh's past appointments include chair of Singapore Airlines from July 2001 to December 2005, and chairman of Singapore Telecommunications.

REUTERS SR KN1613

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