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DBS sues magazine over comments on Temasek links.

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  • Jake Lloyd-Smith -South China Morning Pos
    By Jake Lloyd-Smith in Singapore. 616 words 14 January 2003 South China Morning Post 6 English (c) 2003 South China Morning Post Publishers Limited, Hong Kong.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 23, 2003
      By Jake Lloyd-Smith in Singapore.
      616 words
      14 January 2003
      South China Morning Post
      (c) 2003 South China Morning Post Publishers Limited, Hong Kong. All
      rights reserved.

      Singapore's political leaders have long had a fondness for targeting
      their opponents and the media with defamation lawsuits when they feel
      that they have been maligned. Now one of the city-state's biggest
      businesses is taking a similar tack.

      DBS Group, the state-linked financial group, and its main subsidiary,
      DBS Bank, are suing international magazine BusinessWeek for comments
      published last year that examined trends and changes among government-
      linked companies.

      Last week the magazine's lawyers indicated that their client would
      contest the case, according to a document filed with Singapore's High
      Court on Thursday. According to a November 27 writ of summons - seen
      by the South China Morning Post yesterday - DBS Group and DBS Bank
      are demanding that the magazine and its publisher, United States-
      based McGraw-Hill, pay aggravated damages for the comments, plus
      legal costs.

      DBS Group and its subsidiary also want the magazine served with a
      restraining order that prevents it from publishing the same or
      similar comments in future.

      The DBS writ names as defendants Michael Shari, BusinessWeek's
      Singapore bureau chief, and its editor-in-chief, Stephen Shepard.

      The writ alleges that a September 9 article in the magazine's Asian
      edition - "Stirring Up Singapore Inc" - "injured (the plaintiffs')
      credit and reputation" and brought DBS Group and DBS Bank
      into "public scandal, odium and contempt". It added that the article
      was "riddled with factual inaccuracies".

      The article reported on the appointment in May of Ho Ching to a
      powerful new role at Temasek Holdings, the government's main domestic
      investment agency. Ms Ho is a high-profile businesswoman, who is also
      married to Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

      The BusinessWeek report looked at changes at some Temasek companies
      in the months following Ms Ho's appointment, including an ultimately
      abortive bid by senior executives at state-linked NatSteel to buy
      their own company.

      The allegedly defamatory statements centre on the relationship
      between Temasek and DBS Group and DBS Bank. In particular, they
      focused on an alleged offer of loan financing to NatSteel's
      management for the buyout bid from the banking group.

      Temasek was involved with many aspects of the drawn out battle for
      NatSteel, which was taken over last week by investment consortium 98

      Temasek was a direct shareholder in NatSteel, plus an indirect
      shareholder in NatSteel through DBS Group. It is also an equity
      holder in 98 Holdings.

      During the takeover battle both Temasek and DBS sold their NatSteel
      stakes to 98 Holdings, although there is no suggestion that either of
      them acted improperly.

      The role played in Singapore by Temasek is a sensitive topic in the

      Ms Ho's appointment also generated extensive media discussion due in
      part to her membership of Singapore's most important family. Mr Lee,
      her husband, is expected to succeed Goh Chok Tong as prime minister,
      while his father and Ms Ho's father-in-law, Lee Kuan Yew, is the
      country's Senior Minister.

      Included in the Temasek stable are some of Singapore's best known
      companies including DBS Group, flag-carrier Singapore Airlines and
      defence conglomerate Singapore Technologies.

      The plaintiffs' writ said that DBS Group and DBS Bank had written to
      BusinessWeek in September asking for a withdrawal of the statements
      and an apology. The magazine's lawyers replied in two letters the
      following month.

      In the separate reply dated last Thursday, the magazine's lawyers
      said their clients would "deny each and every allegation made in the
      statement of claim" by DBS Group and DBS Bank.

      DBS Group and BusinessWeek representatives did not offer separate
      comment yesterday.
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