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Opening remarks by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the press briefing for the weekly company visit to Keppel Corporation

Opening remarks by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the press briefing for the weekly company visit to Keppel Corporation

1. Thank you all for joining me once again, for this week's visit.

2. I have a few simple messages that I hope you can help us share with our Singapore enterprises as well as our overseas potential partners. Many of you would have heard me talking about the need to seize new opportunities and pivot to new areas of growth. Today is a very good example.

3. Traditionally, most of us will remember Keppel for being very good with building oil rigs and large-scale engineering projects. There are also other parts of Keppel that people are perhaps less familiar with. To be frank, the last few years have not been easy for Keppel and the next few years may present its fair share of challenges. 

4. The short-term cyclical factors are quite a serious set of challenges for groups like Keppel. There are also longer-term trends, which companies like Keppel and other big companies have to grapple with – for example, the energy transition, and how do we move forward in the next decade or so into a new form of energy dependence; what are the new types of energies and renewables that we can have, and so forth.

5. There is also another long-term trend, which is the issue of sustainability. More people and enterprises are increasingly conscious of the need to have sustainable products, services and solutions. So, there are short-term challenges and long-term trends that companies like Keppel has to grapple with. 

6. There is a third trend which predates COVID and recent challenges - the pace of change has accelerated. In the past, typical Fortune 500 companies may last for an average 40 to 50 years. Today, if you look at the Fortune 500 companies, their average lifespans have gone down to below 20 years, and maybe in the lower teens. Why is that so? Mainly because disruptive technology has accelerated. The same companies that you see today have a suite of products that are very different from what they have provided five years ago. I am quite sure it will be again very different in the next five years. 

7. What have all three sets of forces – short-term cyclical forces, long-term trends and longer-term challenges and, opportunities of technological disruption – informed us? 

8. The first message is this: The need to keep pace with market developments and technology changes is not restricted just to small enterprises. It applies to enterprises of all sizes, from SMEs to the large local enterprises like Keppel. The forces that I talked about – the short-term cyclical forces, the long-term trends, and the technological disruptions – these are not going to impact any one particular sector. In fact, it is going to impact all sectors. 

9. The first message is that enterprises, big and small, will have to get our act together to seize those opportunities and prepare ourselves for the future. I have said this before – technology is neutral. Whoever can master technology and have a better grasp of the mega trends impacting us, will be able to position ourselves much better going forward and emerge stronger from this crisis. 

10. The second message that I wanted to share, is what Keppel has been doing is an example of how even big companies have to pivot and grow new capabilities and seek new markets. Today, Keppel is very different from the Keppel 10 years ago. And from what I have heard about Keppel’s plans, I am very confident that Keppel will be a very different company, providing a very different suite of products and services in 10 years. 

11. Today, Keppel is not just talking about building oil rigs of the old generation; it is using the capabilities that it has developed over the years to pivot to new areas. These include providing energy solutions like wind turbines, offshore wind farms, and floating cities. So, the first is energy and environmental solutions. Second, they are also providing solutions in connectivity; and the third has to do with urban solutions. Why are these areas so interesting – energy, connectivity and urban solutions for what people generally perceive Keppel to be an oil rig builder of the past. To be fair, Keppel was never just an oil rig builder of the past; it has many other things that they produce for the global market. But if you look at these three areas that Keppel is pivoting into – energy, connectivity and urban solutions – these are areas that coincide with the long-term mega trends, where we are talking about the energy transition, and more sustainable urban solutions not just for ourselves, but for an entire globe. 

12. Of course, it is a lot of hard work. But if Keppel is successful, even if Keppel is not successful in all these ventures, a substantial part of it will allow Keppel to transform into quite a different company. That is the kind of spirit we want to see in our enterprises: that they are not just trying to defend the current market share and continue doing what they are doing; that even a company as successful as Keppel has to constantly challenge themselves, to ask themselves where those new markets are based on the mega trends; and those new technologies so that we can build upon our existing ones and pivot into new areas to provide new solutions. 

13. I am very excited to see the solutions that Keppel is trying to develop from renewable energy, offshore wind turbine, regasification plants, to connectivity, 5G networks, urban solutions from design to building of new data centres that are much more energy efficient, as well as new floating city structures. All these are not just pipe dreams. They are real projects that we intend to explore and find partners who can work with us to develop these ideas into reality and provide a next generation of more sustainable living and a next generation of energy solutions for the world. This is the spirit that I am very pleased to see in Keppel today. 

14. So, two simple messages for today: The first is that all the changes that we are seeing apply to companies big and small, and not just small companies having to bear the brunt of the changes. Even big companies need to pivot, to find new markets, and to apply new technologies. The second message is that so long as we in Singapore have the same spirit that Keppel has – constantly searching for new markets, constantly being aware of the mega trends and applying the technologies that they have, acquiring new technologies to build upon existing ones, continuously trying to pivot to new areas –we have every confidence that we will emerge stronger from this crisis. I will invite Mr Loh Chin Hua to share with you later some of the plans as an example of what we are capable of doing in Singapore, not just for Keppel, but for the entire economic system.

15. Just to give an example of some of the interesting projects that they do. Imagine this – we used to build oil rigs, where we have not a single drop of oil. Now we are building wind turbines for the world, when we ourselves do not have much wind power. When people build data centres, they depend on large tracts of land. We are trying to reinvent the model of building data centres vertically, in much more energy efficient ways. When we do not have land, we ask ourselves how we can build floating structures on the sea, for us to use for urban living, factories, solar panels, data centres. 

16. This is the kind of spirit that really inspires us in Singapore, that we turn every constraint into an opportunity for us, not just to do better for ourselves to have a higher quality of life for our people, but also, in turn, provide exportable solutions to the world. When we do not have enough indigenous energy sources, we ask ourselves, how we can import new and more sustainable energy sources, and how we can use our energy more efficiently. 

17. This is really the kind of spirit that drives Keppel forward, and I hope this is also the kind of spirit that drives our country forward as a people - always looking for ways to overcome our constraints and turn them into opportunities for ourselves. Thank you.

 
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