REPORT FOR THE PERIOD FROM 1 JANUARY 2021 TO
31 DECEMBER 2021
We, as the manager of Ascendas Reit (Manager), set the strategic direction of Ascendas Reit and its subsidiaries (Ascendas Reit Group) and make recommendations to HSBC Institutional Trust Services (Singapore) Limited, in its capacity as trustee of Ascendas Reit (Trustee), on any investment or divestment opportunities for Ascendas Reit and the enhancement of the assets of Ascendas Reit in accordance with the stated investment strategy for Ascendas Reit. The research, evaluation and analysis required for this purpose are coordinated and carried out by us as the Manager.
As the Manager, we have general powers of management over the assets of Ascendas Reit. Our primary responsibility is to manage the assets and liabilities of Ascendas Reit for the benefit of the unitholders of Ascendas Reit (Unitholders). We do this with a focus on generating rental income and enhancing asset value over time so as to maximise returns from the investments, and ultimately the distributions and total returns, to Unitholders.
Our other functions and responsibilities as the Manager include:
(a) using our best endeavours to conduct Ascendas Reit’s business in a proper and efficient manner;
(b) preparing annual business plans for review by the directors of the Manager (Directors), including forecasts on revenue, net income, and capital expenditure, explanations on major variances to previous years’ financial results, written commentaries on key issues and underlying assumptions on rental rates, operating expenses and any other relevant assumptions;
(c) ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations, including the Listing Manual of Singapore Exchange Securities Trading Limited (SGX-ST) (Listing Manual), the Code on Collective Investment Schemes (CIS Code) issued by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) (including Appendix 6 of the CIS Code (Property Funds Appendix)), the Securities and Futures Act 2001 (SFA), written directions, notices, codes and other guidelines that MAS may issue from time to time, the tax rulings issued by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and relevant tax authorities on the taxation of Ascendas Reit and where relevant, its Unitholders, and the United Kingdom's Alternative Investment Fund Managers Regulations 2013 (as amended) (AIFMR);
(d) attending to all regular communications with Unitholders; and
(e) supervising Ascendas Services Pte Ltd (for properties located in Singapore), CapitaLand Australia Pty Ltd, CL International Management (UK) Limited, CapitaLand International (USA) LLC (for properties located in Australia, the United Kingdom/Europe and the United States of America respectively) and third party managing agents (collectively known as the Asset / Property Managers) which perform the day-to-day property management functions (including leasing, marketing, promotion, operations coordination and other property management activities) for Ascendas Reit’s properties.
The Manager also considers sustainability issues (including environmental and social factors) as part of its responsibilities. Ascendas Reit’s environmental sustainability and community outreach programmes are set out on pages 20 and 21 of this Annual Report.
Ascendas Reit, constituted as a trust, is externally managed by the Manager. The Manager appoints experienced and well qualified personnel to run its day-to-day operations.
The Manager was appointed in accordance with the terms of the trust deed constituting Ascendas Reit dated 9 October 2002 (as amended, varied or supplemented from time to time) (Trust Deed). The Trust Deed outlines certain circumstances under which the Manager can be removed, including by notice in writing given by the Trustee upon the occurrence of certain events, or by resolution passed by a simple majority of Unitholders present and voting at a meeting of Unitholders duly convened and held in accordance with the provisions of the Trust Deed.
The Manager is a wholly owned subsidiary of CapitaLand Investment Limited (CLI) which holds a significant unitholding interest in Ascendas Reit. CLI is a leading global real estate investment manager, with a vested interest in the long-term performance of Ascendas Reit. CLI’s significant unitholding in Ascendas Reit demonstrates its commitment to Ascendas Reit and as a result, CLI’s interest is aligned with that of the other Unitholders. The Manager’s association with CLI provides the following benefits, among other things, to Ascendas Reit:
(a) strategic pipelines of property assets through, amongst others, CLI’s access to the development capabilities of and pipeline investment opportunities from CapitaLand Group’s development arm;
(b) wider and better access to banking and capital markets on favourable terms;
(c) fund raising and treasury support; and
(d) access to a bench of experienced management talent.
Our Corporate Governance Framework and Culture
The Manager embraces the tenets of good corporate governance, including accountability, transparency and sustainability. It is committed to enhancing long-term Unitholder value and has appropriate people, processes and structure to direct and manage the business and affairs of the Manager with a view to achieving operational excellence and delivering the Ascendas Reit Group’s long-term strategic objectives. The policies and practices it has developed to meet the specific business needs of the Ascendas Reit Group provide a firm foundation for a trusted and respected business enterprise.
Our corporate governance framework as at the date of this Annual Report is set out below:
The Board of Directors (Board) sets the tone from the top and is responsible for the Manager’s corporate governance standards and policies, underscoring their importance to the Ascendas Reit Group.
This corporate governance report (Report) sets out the corporate governance practices for the financial year (FY) 2021 with reference to the Code of Corporate Governance 2018 (Code).
Throughout FY2021, the Manager has complied with the principles of corporate governance laid down by the Code and also, substantially, with the provisions underlying the principles of the Code. Where there are deviations from the provisions of the Code, appropriate explanations are provided in this Report. This Report also sets out additional policies and practices adopted by the Manager which are not provided in the Code.
Ascendas Reit has received accolades from the investment community for excellence in corporate governance and corporate governance-related efforts.
In FY2021, Ascendas Reit was ranked third in the REITs and Business Trusts category on the Singapore Governance and Transparency Index (SGTI). Ascendas Reit also received the Special Edition Corporate Excellence and Resilience Award (for market capitalisation of S$1 billion or more category) at the Singapore Corporate Awards 2021. At the Securities Investors Association (Singapore) (SIAS) Investors’ Choice Awards 2021, it was awarded Runner-up for the Singapore Corporate Governance Award in the REITs and Business Trusts category.
As testament to our commitment to environment, social and corporate governance, Ascendas Reit scored ‘A’ for public disclosure for GRESB1 2021.
Ascendas Reit has been included by SGX in the Fast Track Programme list. The scheme recognises listed companies with good governance standards and compliance practices, and accords prioritised clearance for selected corporate-action submissions.
(A) Board Matters
Principle 1: The Board’s Conduct of Affairs
Board’s Duties and Responsibilities
The Board oversees the strategic direction, performance and affairs of the Manager, in furtherance of the Manager’s primary responsibility to foster the success of Ascendas Reit so as to deliver sustainable value over the long term to Unitholders. It provides overall guidance to the management team (Management), led by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The Board works with Management to achieve Ascendas Reit’s objectives and long-term success and Management is accountable to the Board for its performance. Management is responsible for the execution of the strategy for Ascendas Reit and the day-to-day operations of Ascendas Reit’s business.
The Board establishes goals for Management and monitors the achievement of these goals. It ensures that proper and effective controls are in place to assess and manage business risks and compliance with requirements under the Listing Manual, the Property Funds Appendix, as well as any other applicable guidelines prescribed by the SGX- ST, MAS or other relevant authorities, and applicable laws. It also sets the disclosure and transparency standards for Ascendas Reit and ensures that obligations to Unitholders and other stakeholders are understood and met.
The Board has adopted a set of internal controls which establishes financial approval limits for capital expenditure, investments, divestments, bank borrowings and issuance of debt instruments and this is clearly communicated to Management in writing. The Board has reserved authority to approve certain matters including:
(a) material acquisitions, investments and divestments;
(b) issue of new units in Ascendas Reit (Units);
(b) income distributions and other returns to Unitholders; and
(c) matters which involve a conflict of interest for a controlling unitholder or a Director.
Apart from matters that specifically require the Board’s approval, the Board delegates authority for transactions below the Board’s approval limits to Board committees (Board Committees) and Management to optimise operational efficiency.
The Directors are fiduciaries and are collectively and individually obliged at all times to act honestly and objectively in the best interests of Ascendas Reit. Consistent with this principle, the Board is committed to ethics and integrity of action and has adopted a Board Code of Business Conduct and Ethics (Board Code) which provides that every Director is expected to, among other things, adhere to the highest standards of ethical conduct. All Directors are required to comply with the Board Code. This sets the appropriate tone from the top in respect of the desired organisational culture, and assists the Board in ensuring proper accountability within the Manager. In line with this, the Board has a standing policy that a Director must not allow himself or herself to get into a position where there is a conflict between his or her duty to Ascendas Reit and his or her own interests. Where a Director has a conflict of interest in a particular matter, he or she will be required to disclose his or her interest to the Board, recuse himself or herself from deliberations on the matter and abstain from voting on the matter. Every Director has complied with this policy, and where relevant, such compliance has been duly recorded in the minutes of meeting or written resolutions.
Furthermore, the Directors have the responsibility to act with due diligence in the discharge of their duties and ensure that they have the relevant knowledge to carry out and discharge their duties as directors, including understanding their roles as executive, non-executive, and independent directors, the business of Ascendas Reit and the environment in which Ascendas Reit operates. The Directors are also required to dedicate the necessary effort, commitment and time to their work as directors, and are expected to attend all meetings of the Board, except if unusual circumstances make attendance impractical.
n view of the increasingly demanding, complex and multi-dimensional role of a director, the Board recognises the importance of continual training and development for its Directors so as to equip them to discharge the duties and responsibilities of their office as Directors to the best of their abilities. The NRC ensures that the Manager has in place a training and professional development framework to guide and support the Manager towards meeting the objective of having a Board which comprises individuals who are competent and possess up-to-date knowledge and skills necessary to discharge their duties and responsibilities. Directors who have no prior experience as a director of an issuer listed on the SGX-ST will be provided with training on the roles and responsibilities of a director of a listed issuer in accordance with the listing rules of the SGX-ST. The costs of training are borne by the Manager.
Upon appointment, each Director is provided with a formal letter of appointment and a copy of the Director’s Manual (which includes information on a broad range of matters relating to the role, duties and responsibilities of a Director). All Directors, upon appointment, also undergo an induction programme which focuses on orientating the Director to Ascendas Reit’s business, operations, strategies, organisation structure, responsibilities of CEO and other persons having authority and responsibility for planning, directing and controlling the activities of the Manager (key management personnel), and financial and governance practices. The induction programme may include visits to the Ascendas Reit Group’s properties. Through the induction programme, the new Director also gets acquainted with members of Management which facilitates their interaction at Board meetings.
Following their appointment, the Directors are provided with opportunities for continuing education in areas such as director’s duties and responsibilities, changes to regulations and accounting standards, and industryrelated matters, so as to be updated on matters that affect or may enhance their performance as Directors or Board Committee members. The Directors may also contribute by recommending suitable training and development programmes to the Board. In FY2021, the training and professional development programmes for the Directors included seminars conducted by experts and senior business leaders on board practices and issues faced by boards. Sharing and information sessions were also organised as part of Board meetings, where guest speakers and Management team members presented on key topics to the Board. The Directors also regularly receive reading materials on topical matters or subjects as well as updates on regulatory changes and their implications.
The Board has established various Board Committees to assist it in the discharge of its functions. These Board Committees are the Audit & Risk Committee (ARC) and the Investment Committee (IC). In addition, the Nominating and Remuneration Committee (NRC) was established with effect from 20 October 2021. Prior to the establishment of the NRC, the Board as a whole performed the equivalent functions.
All the Board Committees have clear written terms of reference setting out their respective composition, authorities and duties, including reporting back to the Board. Each of the Board Committees operates under delegated authority from the Board with the Board retaining overall oversight. The decisions and significant matters discussed at the respective Board Committees are reported to the Board on a periodic basis. The minutes of the Board Committee meetings which record the key deliberations and decisions taken during these meetings are also circulated to all Board members for their information. The composition of the various Board Committees is set out on pages 108 and 143 of this Annual Report. The duties and responsibilities of the Board Committees are set out in this Report.
The Board may form other Board Committees from time to time. The composition of each Board Committee is also reviewed regularly, and as and when there are changes to Board membership. Where appropriate, changes are made to composition of the Board Committees, with a view to ensuring there is an appropriate diversity of skills and experience, and fostering active participation and contributions from Board Committee members.
Meetings of Board and Board Committees
Board and Board Committee meetings are scheduled prior to the start of each financial year in consultation with the Directors. The Constitution of the Manager (Constitution) permits the Directors to participate in Board and Board Committee meetings via audio or video conference. If a Director is unable to attend a Board or Board Committee meeting, he or she may provide his or her comments to the Chairman or the relevant Board Committee chairman ahead of the meeting and these comments are taken into consideration in the deliberations. The Board and Board Committees may also make decisions by way of written resolutions.
In addition to scheduled meetings, the Board may also hold ad-hoc meetings as required by business imperatives. The Directors (excluding the CEO) also meet from time to time without the presence of Management.
At each scheduled Board meeting, the Board is apprised of the following:
(a) significant matters discussed at the ARC meeting which is typically scheduled before the Board meeting;
(b) ARC’s recommendation on Ascendas Reit’s half-year and year-end financial results following ARC’s review of the same;
(c) decisions made by Board Committees in the period under review;
(d) updates on the Ascendas Reit Group’s business and operations in the period under review, including market developments and trends, as well as business initiatives and opportunities;
(e) financial performance, budgetary and capital management related matters in the period under review, including any material variance between any projections in budget or business plans and the actual results from business activities and operations;
(f) any risk management issues that materially impact Ascendas Reit’s operations or financial performance;
(g) updates on key Unitholder engagements in the period under review, as well as analyst views and market feedback; and
(h) prospective transactions which Management is exploring.
This allows the Board to develop a good understanding of the progress of the Ascendas Reit Group’s business as well as the issues and challenges faced by Ascendas Reit, and also promotes active engagement with Management.
The Manager adopts and practises the principle of collective decisions and therefore, no individual Director influences or dominates the decision-making process. There is mutual respect and trust among the Directors and therefore the Board benefits from a culture of frank and rigorous discussions. Such discussions conducted on a professional basis contribute to the dynamism and effectiveness of the Board. The Board composition is such that there is diversity in views and perspectives which enriches deliberations and contributes to better decision-making of the Board in the best interests of Ascendas Reit. At Board and Board Committee meetings, all the Directors actively participate in discussions, in particular, they engage in open and constructive debate and challenge Management on its assumptions and recommendations.
Management provides the Directors with complete, adequate and timely information prior to Board and Board Committee meetings and on an ongoing basis. This enables the Directors to make informed decisions and discharge their duties and responsibilities.
As a general rule, meeting materials are provided to the Directors at least five working days prior to Board and Board Committee meetings, to allow them to prepare for the meetings and to enable discussions to focus on any questions or issues that they may have or identify. Agendas for Board and Board Committee meetings are prepared in consultation with the Chairman and the chairmen of the respective Board Committees. This provides assurance that there is time to cover all relevant matters during the meetings.
In line with the Manager’s ongoing commitment to minimise paper wastage and reduce its carbon footprint, the Manager does not provide printed copies of Board and Board Committee meeting materials. Instead, the Directors are provided with tablet devices to enable them to access and review meeting materials prior to and during meetings. This initiative also enhances information security as the meeting materials are made available through a secure channel. The Directors are also able to review and approve written resolutions using the tablet devices.
A total of seven Board meetings and four ARC meetings were held in FY2021. The key deliberations and decisions taken at Board and Board Committee meetings are minuted.
A record of the Directors’ attendance at Board and Board Committee meetings for FY2021 is set out on page 144 of this Annual Report. The CEO who is also a Director attends all Board meetings. He also attends all ARC meetings on an ex officio basis. Other members of Management attend Board and Board Committee meetings as required to brief the Board and Board Committees on specific business matters.
There is active interaction between the Directors and Management during and outside Board and Board Committee meetings. The Directors have separate, independent and unfettered access to Management for any information that they may require. The Board and Management share a productive and harmonious relationship, which is critical for good governance and organisational effectiveness.
The Directors also have separate and independent access to the company secretary of the Manager (Company Secretary). The Company Secretary keeps herself or himself abreast of relevant developments. She or he has oversight of corporate secretarial administration matters and advises the Board and Management on corporate governance matters. The Company Secretary attends Board meetings and assists the Chairman in ensuring that Board procedures are followed. The Company Secretary also facilitates the induction programme for new Directors and oversees professional development administration for the Directors. The appointment and the removal of the Company Secretary is subject to the Board’s approval.
The Directors, whether individually or collectively as the Board, are entitled to have access to independent external professional advice where necessary, at the Manager’s expense.
Principle 2: Board Composition and Guidance
The Board has a strong independent element as five out of eight directors, including the Chairman, are non-executive IDs. Other than the CEO who is the only executive Director on the Board, non-executive Directors make up the rest of the Board. None of the Directors have served on the Board for nine years or longer. Profiles of the Directors, their respective Board Committee memberships and roles are set out on pages 24 to 29 of this Annual Report. Key information on the Directors is also available on Ascendas Reit’s website at www.ascendas-reit.com (Website).
The Board, through the NRC, reviews from time to time the size and composition of the Board and each Board Committee, with a view to ensuring that the size is appropriate in facilitating effective decision-making, and the composition reflects a strong independent element as well as balance and diversity of thought and background. The review takes into account the scope and nature of the Ascendas Reit Group’s operations, and the competition that the Ascendas Reit Group faces.
The Board, through the NRC, assesses annually (and as and when circumstances require) the independence of each Director in accordance with the requirements of the Listing Manual and the guidance in the Code, the Securities and Futures (Licensing and Conduct of Business) Regulations (SFR) and where relevant, the recommendations set out in the Practice Guidance accompanying the Code (Practice Guidance). A Director is considered independent if he or she is independent in conduct, character and judgement and:
(a) has no relationship with the Manager, its related corporations, its substantial shareholders, Ascendas Reit’s substantial Unitholders (being Unitholders who have interests in voting Units with 5% or more of the total votes attached to all voting Units) or the Manager’s officers that could interfere, or be reasonably perceived to interfere with the exercise of his or her independent business judgement in the best interests of Ascendas Reit;
(b) is independent from the management of the Manager and Ascendas Reit, from any business relationship with the Manager and Ascendas Reit, and from every substantial shareholder of the Manager and every substantial unitholder of Ascendas Reit;
(c) is not a substantial shareholder of the Manager or a substantial unitholder of Ascendas Reit;
(d) is not employed and has not been employed by the Manager or Ascendas Reit or their related corporations in the current or any of the past three financial years;
(e) does not have an immediate family member who is employed or has been employed by the Manager or Ascendas Reit or their related corporations in the current or any of the past three financial years and whose remuneration is or was determined by the Board; and
(f) has not served on the Board for a continuous period of nine years or longer.
There is a rigorous process to evaluate the independence of each ID. As part of the process:
(a) each ID provides information of his or her business interests and confirms, annually, that there are no relationships which interfere with the exercise of his or her independent business judgement with a view to the best interests of the Unitholders as a whole, and such information is then reviewed by the NRC; and
(b) the NRC also reflects on the respective IDs’ conduct and contributions at Board and Board Committee meetings, in particular, whether the relevant ID has exercised independent judgement in discharging his or her duties and responsibilities.
Each ID is required to recuse himself or herself from the NRC’s and the Board’s deliberations on his or her independence. In appropriate cases, the NRC also reviews the independence of an ID as and when there is a change of circumstances involving the ID. In this regard, an ID is required to report to the Manager when there is any change of circumstances which may affect his or her independence.
The Board, through the NRC, has carried out the assessment of the independence of the IDs for FY2021, and the paragraphs below set out the outcome of the assessment. Each of the IDs had recused himself or herself from the NRC’s and the Board’s deliberations on his or her independence.
Dr Beh Swan Gin
Dr Beh Swan Gin is not faced with any of the circumstances identified in the Code, SFR and Listing Manual, and does not have any other relevant relationships which may affect his independent judgement. Dr Beh is the Chairman of Economic Development Board of Singapore (a statutory board which is responsible for strategies that enhance Singapore's position as a global centre for business, innovation and talent). This role does not require him to take or subject him to any obligation to follow any instructions from any government authorities in relation to the corporate affairs of the Manager or Ascendas Reit. This role also generates no conflict of interest issue in respect of his role as a Director of the Manager.
The Board has considered whether Dr Beh had demonstrated independence in character and judgement in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities as a director and concluded that Dr Beh had acted with independent judgement. On the basis of the declaration of independence provided by Dr Beh and the guidance in the Code, SFR and Listing Manual, the Board arrived at the determination that Dr Beh is an Independent Director.
Mr Chan Pengee, Adrian
Mr Chan Pengee, Adrian is the Senior Partner and Head of Corporate department at Lee & Lee (L&L) which provides legal services to some of the subsidiaries of CLI (CLI-Sub). The engagement of L&L to provide legal services to CLI-Sub was made by the management teams within CLI-Sub and Mr Chan has no involvement in the process or in the approval of such engagement. These services are provided in the ordinary course of business, on arm’s length basis and based on normal commercial terms.
Mr Chan is also a non-executive director/member of various companies and organisations (collectively, Organisations and individually, an Organisation) which may have business relationships with CLI and its subsidiaries (CLI Group) in respect of various matters, including but not limited to services provided to/by the CLI Group, membership subscription fees paid by the CLI Group, leases by the CLI Group and/or filing fees paid by the CLI Group. Mr Chan’s role in each Organisation is non-executive in nature and he is not involved in the day-to-day conduct of the business of such Organisations. Mr Chan was not involved in any decision by such Organisations to enter into business relationships with the CLI Group.
Mr Chan is also a non-executive director of a few subsidiaries of Temasek Holdings (Private) limited (Temasek). Temasek is a controlling shareholder of the Manager and a controlling unitholder of Ascendas Reit. Mr Chan’s roles in these corporations are non-executive in nature and he is not involved in the day-to-day conduct of the business of these corporations. Mr Chan has confirmed that he serves on the Manager’s board in his personal capacity and not as a representative of Temasek, and he is not under any obligation, whether formal or informal, to act in accordance with the directions of Temasek in relation to the affairs of the Manager and Ascendas Reit.
The Board has considered the conduct of Mr Chan in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities as a Director, and is of the view that the relationships set out above did not impair his ability to act with independent judgement in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities as a Director. Save for the relationships stated above, Mr Chan does not have any other relevant relationships and is not faced with any of the circumstances identified in the Code, SFR and Listing Manual, which may affect his independent judgement. The Board is therefore of the view that Mr Chan has exercised independent judgement in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities. Based on the above, the Board arrived at the determination that Mr Chan is an Independent Director
Mr Daniel Cuthbert Ee Hock Huat
Mr Daniel Cuthbert Ee Hock Huat is the non-executive chairman and a director of Keppel Infrastructure Fund Management Pte Ltd (KIFM), an associated corporation of Temasek. Mr Ee’s role in KIFM is non-executive in nature and he is not involved in the day-to-day conduct of the business of KIFM. Mr Ee has confirmed that he serves on the Manager’s board in his personal capacity and not as a representative of Temasek, and he is not under any obligation, whether formal or informal, to act in accordance with the directions of Temasek in relation to the affairs of the Manager and Ascendas Reit.
The Board has considered the conduct of Mr Ee in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities as a Director, and is of the view that the relationship set out above did not impair his ability to act with independent judgement in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities as a Director. Save for the relationship stated above, Mr Ee does not have any other relevant relationships and is not faced with any of the circumstances identified in the Code, SFR and Listing Manual, which may affect his independent judgement. The Board is therefore of the view that Mr Ee has exercised independent judgement in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities. Based on the above, the Board arrived at the determination that Mr Ee is an Independent Director.
Mr Chinniah Kunnasagaran
Mr Chinniah Kunnasagaran is a non-executive director of various subsidiaries of Temasek and KIFM, an associated corporation of Temasek. Mr Kunnasagaran’s roles in these corporations are non-executive in nature and he is not involved in the day-to-day conduct of the business of these corporations. Mr Kunnasagaran has confirmed that he serves on the Manager’s board in his personal capacity and not as a representative of Temasek, and he is not under any obligation, whether formal or informal, to act in accordance with the directions of Temasek in relation to the affairs of the Manager and Ascendas Reit.
The Board has considered the conduct of Mr Kunnasagaran in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities as a Director, and is of the view that the relationships set out above did not impair his ability to act with independent judgement in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities as a Director. Save for the relationships stated above, Mr Kunnasagaran does not have any other relevant relationships and is not faced with any of the circumstances identified in the Code, SFR and Listing Manual, which may affect his independent judgement. The Board is therefore of the view that Mr Kunnasagaran has exercised independent judgement in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities. Based on the above, the Board arrived at the determination that Mr Kunnasagaran is an Independent Director.
Ms Ong Lee Keang Maureen
Ms Ong Lee Keang Maureen is not faced with any of the circumstances identified in the Code, SFR and Listing Manual and does not have any other relevant relationships, which may affect her independent judgement. The Board has considered whether Ms Ong had demonstrated independence in character and judgement in the discharge of her duties and responsibilities as a director and concluded that Ms Ong had acted with independent judgement. On the basis of the declaration of independence provided by Ms Ong and the guidance in the Code, SFR and Listing Manual, the Board arrived at the determination that Ms Ong is an Independent Director.
The Board is of the view that as at the last day of FY2021, each of Dr Beh, Mr Chan, Mr Ee, Mr Kunnasagaran and Ms Ong was able to act in the best interests of all the Unitholders in respect of the period in which they served as directors in FY2021.
The Board embraces diversity and has formally adopted a Board Diversity Policy. The Board Diversity Policy provides for the Board to comprise talented and dedicated Directors with a diverse mix of expertise, experience, perspectives, skills and backgrounds, with due consideration to diversity factors, including but not limited to, diversity in business or professional experience, age and gender.
The Board believes in diversity and values the benefits that diversity can bring to the Board in its deliberations by avoiding groupthink and fostering constructive debate. Diversity enhances the Board’s decision-making capability and ensures that the Manager has the opportunity to benefit from all available talent and perspectives.
The NRC, in carrying out its duties of determining the optimal composition of the Board in its Board renewal process, identifying possible candidates and making recommendations of board appointments to the Board, considers diversity factors such as age, educational, business and professional backgrounds of its members. Female representation is also considered an important aspect of diversity. The current Board comprises eight members who are corporate and business leaders, and are professionals with varied backgrounds, expertise and experience including in finance, banking, investment, real estate, legal, accounting, business and general management. The current Board has one female member. For further information on the Board’s work in this regard, please refer to “Board Membership” under Principle 4 in this Report.
Principle 3: Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
The roles and responsibilities of the Chairman and the CEO are held by separate individuals, in keeping with the principles that there be a clear division of responsibilities between the leadership of the Board and Management and that no one individual has unfettered powers of decision-making. The non-executive independent Chairman is Dr Beh Swan Gin, whereas the CEO is Mr William Tay Wee Leong. They do not share any family ties. The Chairman and the CEO enjoy a positive and constructive working relationship between them, and support each other in their respective leadership roles.
The Chairman provides leadership to the Board and facilitates the conditions for the overall effectiveness of the Board, Board Committees and individual Directors. This includes setting the agenda of Board meetings, ensuring that there is sufficient information and time at meetings to address all agenda items, and promoting open and constructive engagement among the Directors as well as between the Board and the CEO on strategic issues.
The Chairman devotes considerable time to understanding the business of Ascendas Reit, as well as the issues and the competition that Ascendas Reit faces. He plays a significant leadership role by providing clear oversight, direction, advice and guidance to the CEO. He also maintains open lines of communication and engages with other members of Management regularly, and acts as a sounding board for the CEO on strategic and significant operational matters.
The Chairman also presides over the Annual General Meeting (AGM) each year and other general meetings where he plays a crucial role in fostering constructive dialogue between the Unitholders, the Board and Management.
The CEO has full executive responsibilities to manage the Ascendas Reit Group’s business and to develop and implement policies approved by the Board.
The separation of the roles and responsibilities of the Chairman and the CEO and the resulting clarity of roles provide a healthy professional relationship between the Board and Management, facilitate robust deliberations on the Ascendas Reit Group’s business activities and the exchange of ideas and views to help shape the strategic process, and ensure an appropriate balance of power, increased accountability and greater capacity of the Board for independent decision-making.
As the roles of the Chairman and the CEO are held by separate individuals who are not related to each other, and the Chairman is an ID, the recommendation under the Code for a lead ID is not applicable. Nonetheless, the Board has approved the appointment of a lead ID, on the basis that such lead ID would provide leadership for the other IDs only in the limited situation(s) where the Chairman is conflicted. This was done with a view to further strengthen the independence of the Board. The lead ID would be available to Unitholders where they have concerns and for which contact through the normal channels of communication with the Chairman or Management are inappropriate or inadequate. The lead ID is Mr Chan Pengee, Adrian.
Principle 4: Board Membership
The Board has a formal and transparent process for the appointment and re-appointment of Directors, taking into account the need for progressive renewal of the Board. With effect from 20 October 2021, it has established the NRC, which makes recommendations to the Board on all appointments to the Board and Board Committees. All Board appointments are made based on merit and approved by the Board.
Prior to 20 October 2021, the Board undertook the functions of a nominating committee and accordingly, the Manager did not have a separate nominating committee. The Board performed the functions that such a committee would otherwise perform.
The Board was able to undertake the functions of a nominating committee because:
(a) the Manager is a dedicated manager to Ascendas Reit and in general, REITs (including Ascendas Reit) have a more focused scope and scale of business compared to those of listed companies. For this reason, the Board’s capacity would not be unduly stretched if the responsibilities of a nominating committee were also undertaken by the Board as the Board would be able to give adequate attention to such issues;
(b) the focused scope of the business of Ascendas Reit also means a manageable competency requirement for the Board such that the Board is able to manage the duties of a nominating committee; and
(c) IDs form at least half of the Board and the Chairman is an ID, which demonstrates that the IDs play a substantive role, and assure the objectivity and independence of the decision-making process concerning nomination. This also mitigates any concerns of conflict which can be managed by having the conflicted Directors abstain from the decision-making process. Further, conflict situations are less likely to arise in matters of nomination.
The SGX-ST has also issued a Practice Note which provides that the requirement for the establishment of nominating and remuneration committees under the Listing Manual does not apply to REITs if the REIT complies with regulations made under the SFA relating to board composition of a REIT manager. As the Manager complies with Regulation 13D of the SFR relating to the composition of the Board of the Manager, the Manager is of the opinion that the corporate governance requirements relating to the nominating and remuneration committees have been substantively addressed.
Upon the establishment of the NRC on 20 October 2021, the NRC comprises three non-executive directors, two of whom (including the chairman of the NRC) are IDs. The NRC has met twice since its establishment in October 2021. The NRC has also reviewed and approved various matters within its remit via circulating papers.
Under its terms of reference, the NRC’s scope of duties and responsibilities includes:
(a) reviewing and making recommendations to the Board on the structure, size and composition of the Board and its Board committees and formulating succession plans for Directors;
(b) reviewing the performance of the Board, Board Committees and individual Directors and the results of such evaluation annually;
(c) considering annually and, as and when circumstances require, if a Director is independent; and
(d) considering and making recommendations to the Board on the appointment and re-appointment of Directors.
The NRC’s duties and responsibilities in relation to remuneration matters are set out on pages 124 to 130 of this Annual Report
Board Composition and Renewal
The Board, through the NRC, strives to ensure that there is an optimal blend in the Board of backgrounds, experience and knowledge in business and general management, expertise relevant to the Ascendas Reit Group’s business and track record, and that each Director can bring to the Board an independent and objective perspective to enable balanced and well-considered decisions to be made in the interests of the Ascendas Reit Group. The Board has a few members who have prior working experience in the sector that Ascendas Reit operates in.
There is a structured process for determining Board composition and for selecting candidates for appointment as Directors. In undertaking its duty of reviewing and making Board appointment recommendations to the Board, the NRC considers different time horizons for purposes of succession planning. The NRC evaluates the Board’s competencies on a long-term basis and identifies competencies which may be further strengthened in the long-term to achieve Ascendas Reit’s strategy and objectives. As part of medium-term planning, the NRC seeks to refresh the membership of the Board progressively and in an orderly manner, whilst ensuring continuity and sustainability of corporate performance. The NRC also considers contingency planning to prepare for sudden and unforeseen changes. In reviewing succession plans, the NRC has in mind Ascendas Reit’s strategic priorities and the factors affecting the long-term success of Ascendas Reit. Board succession planning takes into account the need to maintain flexibility to effectively address succession planning and to ensure that the Manager continues to attract and retain highly qualified individuals to serve on the Board. The NRC aims to maintain an optimal Board composition by considering the trends affecting Ascendas Reit, reviewing the skills needed and identifying gaps, including considering whether there is an appropriate level of diversity of thought. The process ensures that the Board composition is such that the Board has capabilities and experience which are aligned with Ascendas Reit’s strategy and environment, and includes the following considerations: (a) the current size of the Board and Board Committees, composition mix and core competencies, (b) the candidate's/ Director's independence, in the case of an independent director, (c) the composition requirements for the Board and relevant Board Committees (if the candidate/Director is proposed to be appointed to any Board Committee), and (d) the candidate's/Director's age, gender, track record, experience and capabilities and such other relevant factors as may be determined by the Board, which would provide an appropriate balance and contribute to the collective skills of the Board.
The Board supports the principle that Board renewal is a necessary and continual process, for good governance and ensuring that the Board has the skills, expertise and experience which are relevant to the evolving needs of the Ascendas Reit Group’s business.
Board succession planning is carried out through the annual review by the NRC of the Board’s composition as well as when a Director gives notice of his or her intention to retire or resign. The outcome of that review is reported to the Board. The Board also has in place guidelines on the tenure of Directors. The guidelines provide that an ID should serve for no more than a maximum of two three-year terms and any extension of tenure beyond six years will be reviewed on a yearly basis up to a period of nine years (inclusive of the initial two three-year terms served) by the NRC in arriving at a recommendation to the Board.
The NRC identifies suitable candidates for appointment to the Board. Searches for possible candidates are conducted through contacts and recommendations. In this regard, external consultants may be retained from time to time to assist the NRC in identifying candidates. Candidates are identified based on the needs of Ascendas Reit and the relevant skills required, taking into account, among other things, the requirements in the Listing Manual and the Code, as well as the factors in the Board Diversity Policy. The candidates will be assessed against a range of criteria including their demonstrated business sense and judgement, skills and expertise, and market and industry knowledge (and may include elements such as financial, sustainability or other specific competency, geographical representation and business background). The NRC also considers the qualities of the candidates, in particular whether they are aligned to the strategic directions and values of Ascendas Reit. In addition, the NRC assesses the candidates’ ability to commit time to the affairs of Ascendas Reit, taking into consideration their other current appointments. The NRC uses a skills matrix to determine the skills gaps of the Board and if the expertise and experience of a candidate would complement those of the existing Board members.
As part of the Board renewal process, Ms Ong Lee Keang Maureen was appointed as a Non-Executive ID and a member of the ARC with effect from 1 September 2021. Upon the establishment of the NRC on 20 October 2021, Dr Beh Swan Gin was appointed as chairman of the NRC and Mr Chan Pengee, Adrian and Mr Manohar Khiatani were appointed as members of the NRC. Mr Khiatani also ceased his membership in the ARC as of 20 October 2021. Ms Chong Chiet Ping retired as a Non-Executive ID and a member of the ARC with effect from 1 November 2021.
Directors who are appointed to the Board from time to time either have prior experience as a director of an issuer listed on the SGX-ST or will undergo the training required under Rule 210(5)(a) of the Listing Manual. As Ms Ong Lee Keang Maureen has prior experience as a director of an issuer listed on the SGX-ST, she is not required to undergo the requisite training under rule 210(5)(a) of the Listing Manual.
Review of Directors’ Ability to Commit Time
In view of the responsibilities of a Director, Directors need to be able to devote sufficient time and attention to adequately perform their duties and responsibilities. The NRC conducts a review of the other appointments and commitments of each Director on an annual basis and as and when there is a change of circumstances involving a Director which may affect his or her ability to commit time to the Manager. In this regard, Directors are required to report to the Board any changes in their other appointments.
In respect of the Directors’ other appointments and commitments, no limit is set as to the number of listed company board appointments. The Board takes the view that the number of listed company directorships that an individual may hold should be considered on a case-by-case basis, as a person’s available time and attention may be affected by many different factors, such as his or her individual capacity, whether he or she is in full-time employment, the nature of his or her other responsibilities and his or her near term plan regarding some of the other appointments. A Director with multiple directorships is expected to ensure that he or she can devote sufficient time and attention to the affairs of the Manager. IDs are also required to consult the Chairman before accepting any invitation for appointment as a director of another entity or offer of a full time executive appointment.
There is also no alternate director to any of the Directors. In keeping with the principle that a Director must be able to commit time to the affairs of the Manager, the Board has adopted the principle that it will generally not approve the appointment of alternate directors to the Directors.
Each of the Directors is required to make his or her own self-assessment and confirm that he or she is able to devote sufficient time and attention to the affairs of the Manager. For FY2021, all non-executive Directors had undergone the self-assessment and provided the confirmation.
On an annual basis and, where appropriate when there is a change of circumstances involving a Director, the NRC assesses each Director’s ability to commit time to the affairs of the Manager. In the assessment, the NRC takes into consideration each Director’s confirmation, his or her commitments, attendance record at meetings of the Board and Board Committees, as well as conduct and contributions (including preparedness and participation) at Board and Board Committee meetings.
The Directors’ listed company directorships and principal commitments are disclosed on pages 26 to 29 of this Annual Report and their attendance record for FY2021 is set out on page 144 of this Annual Report. In particular, the CEO does not serve on any listed company board outside of the Ascendas Reit Group. For FY2021, the Directors achieved high meeting attendance rates and have contributed positively to discussions at Board and Board Committee meetings. Based on the above, the NRC has determined that each Director has been adequately carrying out his or her duties as a Director and noted that no Director has a significant number of listed directorships and principal commitments.
The Board, taking into consideration the NRC’s assessment, has noted that each Director has been adequately carrying out his or her duties and responsibilities as a Director of the Manager.
Principle 5: Board Performance
The Manager believes that oversight from a strong and effective Board goes a long way towards guiding a business enterprise to achieving success.
Whilst Board performance is ultimately reflected in the long-term performance of the Ascendas Reit Group, the Board believes that engaging in a regular process of self-assessment and evaluation of Board performance provides an opportunity for the Board to reflect on its effectiveness including the quality of its decisions, and for Directors to consider their performance and contributions. It also enables the Board to identify key strengths and areas for improvement which are essential to effective stewardship and attaining success for Ascendas Reit.
The Board undertakes, with the assistance of the NRC, a process to evaluate the effectiveness of the Board as a whole and that of each of its Board Committees and individual Directors for every financial year. As part of the process, a questionnaire is sent to the Directors. The evaluation results are aggregated and reported to the NRC, and thereafter the Board. The findings are considered by the Board and follow up action is taken where necessary with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of the Board, Board Committees and individual Directors in the discharge of its and their duties and responsibilities.
Board and Board Committees
The evaluation categories covered in the questionnaire include Board composition, Board processes, strategy, performance and governance, access to information and Board Committee effectiveness. As part of the questionnaire, the Board also considers whether the creation of value for Unitholders has been taken into account in the decision-making process. For FY2021, the outcome of the evaluation was satisfactory and the Board as a whole, and each of the Board Committees, received affirmative ratings across all the evaluation categories.
The evaluation categories covered in the questionnaire include Director’s duties, contributions, conduct and interpersonal skills, as well as strategic thinking and risk management. For FY2021, the outcome of the evaluation was satisfactory and each of the Directors on the whole received affirmative ratings across all the evaluation categories.
The Board also recognises that contributions by an individual Director can take different forms including providing objective perspectives on issues, facilitating business opportunities and strategic relationships, and accessibility to Management outside of the formal environment of Board and Board Committee meetings.
Board Evaluation as an Ongoing Process
The Board believes that performance evaluation should be an ongoing process and the Board achieves this by seeking feedback on a regular basis. The regular interactions between the Directors, and between the Directors and Management, also contribute to this ongoing process. Through this process of engaging its members, the Board also benefits from an understanding of shared norms between Directors which also contributes to a positive Board culture. The collective Board performance and the contributions of individual Directors are also reflected in, and evidenced by, the synergistic performance of the Board in discharging its responsibilities as a whole by providing proper guidance, diligent oversight and able leadership, and lending support to Management in steering Ascendas Reit in the appropriate direction, as well as the long-term performance of Ascendas Reit whether under favourable or challenging market conditions.
(B) Remuneration Matters
Principles 6, 7 and 8: Procedures for Developing Remuneration Policies, Level and Mix of Remuneration and Disclosure on Remuneration
All fees and remuneration payable to Directors, key management personnel (including the CEO) and staff of the Manager are paid by the Manager.
The Board has a formal and transparent procedure for developing policies on Director and executive remuneration, and for fixing the remuneration packages of individual Directors and key management personnel.
Prior to 20 October 2021, the Board undertook the functions of a remuneration committee and accordingly, the Manager did not have a separate remuneration committee. The Board performed the functions that such a committee would otherwise perform.
The Board is able to undertake the functions of a remuneration committee because:
(a) the Manager is a dedicated manager to Ascendas Reit and in general, REITs (including Ascendas Reit) have a more focused scope and scale of business compared to those of listed companies. For this reason, the Board’s capacity would not be unduly stretched by reason of it undertaking the responsibilities of a remuneration committee and the Board would be able to give adequate attention to such issues relating to remuneration matters; and
(b) the IDs form at least half of the Board and the Chairman is an ID, which demonstrate that the IDs play a substantive role and assure the objectivity and independence of the decision-making process concerning remuneration. This also mitigates any concerns of conflict which can be managed by having the conflicted Directors abstain from the decision-making process. Further, conflict situations are less likely to arise in matters of remuneration.
With effect from 20 October 2021, the Board has established the NRC to review the Board remuneration framework and determine the specific remuneration for the Directors. The NRC also reviews the compensation framework and remuneration for the Ascendas Reit Group’s executives and approves the specific remuneration packages for the key management personnel.
Guided by its terms of reference, the NRC oversees the development and succession planning for the CEO. This includes overseeing the process for selection of the CEO and conducting an annual review of career development and succession matters for the CEO.
Remuneration Policy for Key Management Personnel
The remuneration framework and policy are designed to support the implementation of the Ascendas Reit Group’s business strategy and deliver sustainable returns to Unitholders. The principles governing the remuneration policies of the Manager’s key management personnel are as follows:
• Focus on generating rental income and enhancing asset value over time so as to maximise returns from investments and ultimately the distributions and total returns to Unitholders.
• Provide sound and structured funding to ensure affordability and cost-effectiveness in line with performance goals
• Enhance retention of key talents to build strong organisational capabilities
Motivate Right Behaviour
• Pay for performance – align, differentiate and balance rewards according to multiple dimensions of performance
• Strengthen line-of-sight linking rewards and performance
Fair & Appropriate
• Ensure competitive remuneration relative to the appropriate external talent markets
• Manage internal equity such that remuneration is viewed as fair across the Ascendas Reit Group
• Significant and appropriate portion of pay-at-risk, taking into account risk policies of the Ascendas Reit Group, symmetrical with risk outcomes and sensitive to the risk time horizon
• Maintain rigorous corporate governance standards
• Exercise appropriate flexibility to meet strategic business needs and practical implementation considerations
• Facilitate employee understanding to maximise the value of the remuneration programme
These remuneration policies are in line with the Ascendas Reit Group’s business strategy and the executive compensation framework is based on the key principle of linking pay to performance, which is emphasised by linking total remuneration to the achievement of corporate and individual goals and objectives. The NRC considers all aspects of remuneration, including termination terms, to ensure they are fair, and has access to remuneration consultants for advice on remuneration matters as required.
In reviewing policies on remuneration and determining the remuneration packages for key management personnel, the NRC, through an independent remuneration consultant, takes into consideration appropriate compensation benchmarks within the industry, so as to ensure that the remuneration packages payable to key management personnel are competitive and in line with the objectives of the remuneration policies. It also considers the compensation framework of CLI as a point of reference. The Manager is a subsidiary of CLI which also holds a significant stake in Ascendas Reit. The association with the CLI Group puts the Manager in a better position to attract and retain better qualified management talent. Additionally, it provides an intangible benefit to the Manager such that it allows its employees to associate themselves with an established corporate group which can offer them the depth and breadth of experience and enhanced career development opportunities.
In FY2021, Willis Towers Watson was appointed as independent remuneration consultant to provide professional advice on executive remuneration. Willis Towers Watson is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company with over 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. The consultant is not related to the Manager, its controlling shareholder, related corporations or any of its Directors.
Remuneration for Key Management Personnel
Remuneration of key management personnel comprises fixed components, a variable cash component, Unit-based components and employee benefits. A significant proportion of key management personnel’s remuneration is in the form of variable compensation, awarded in a combination of short-term and long-term incentives, in keeping with the principle that the interests of the key management personnel should be aligned with those of Unitholders and that the remuneration framework should link rewards to business and individual performance
A. Fixed Components:
The fixed components comprise the base salary, fixed allowances and compulsory employer contribution to an employee’s Central Provident Fund.
B. Variable Cash Component:
The variable cash component comprises the Balanced Scorecard Bonus Plan (BSBP) that is linked to the achievement of annual performance targets for each key management personnel.
Under the Balanced Scorecard framework, the Ascendas Reit Group’s strategy and goals are translated to performance outcomes comprising both quantitative and qualitative targets in the dimensions of:
• Financial: This includes targets relating to profitability and distributions, capital structure, as well as financial and risk management.
• Execution: This includes targets relating to occupancy rates, new asset performance and stakeholder engagement
• Future Growth: This includes targets relating to assets enhancements, investments and capital recycling.
• Sustainability: This includes targets relating to talent retention, succession planning and sustainable corporate practices
These Balanced Scorecard targets are approved by the Board and cascaded down throughout the organisation, thereby creating alignment across the Ascendas Reit Group.
After the close of each financial year, the Board reviews the Ascendas Reit Group’s achievements against the targets set in the Balanced Scorecard and determines the overall performance taking into consideration qualitative factors such as the quality of earnings, operating environment, regulatory landscape and industry trends.
In determining the payout quantum for each key management personnel under the BSBP, the NRC considers the overall business performance and individual performance as well as the affordability of the payout to the Manager
C. Unit-based Components:
Unit awards were granted in FY2021 pursuant to the Ascendas Funds Management (S) Limited Performance Unit Plan (PUP) and Ascendas Funds Management (S) Limited Restricted Unit Plan (RUP) (together, the Unit Plans), approved by the Board. The Manager believes that the Unit-based components of the remuneration for key management personnel serve to align the interests of such key management personnel with that of Unitholders and Ascendas Reit’s long-term growth and value. The obligation to deliver the Units is satisfied out of the Units held by the Manager.
To promote the alignment of Management’s interests with that of Unitholders in the longer term, senior members of Management are subject to Unit ownership guidelines to instil stronger identification with the longer-term performance and growth of the Ascendas Reit Group. Under these guidelines, senior members of Management are required to retain a prescribed proportion of Units received under the Unit Plans worth up to at least one year of basic salary.
Units vested pursuant to the Unit Plans may be clawed back in circumstances where the relevant participants were involved in financial misstatement, misconduct, fraud or malfeasance to the detriment of the Ascendas Reit Group.
Ascendas Funds Management (S) Limited Performance Unit Plan
In FY2021, the Board granted awards which are conditional on targets set for a three-year performance period. A specified number of Units will only be released to the recipients at the end of the qualifying performance period, provided that minimally the threshold target is achieved.
Under the PUP, an initial number of Units (PUP baseline award) is allocated conditional on the achievement of a pre-determined target in respect of the Relative Total Unitholder Return (TUR) of the Ascendas Reit Group measured by the percentile ranking of the TUR of the Ascendas Reit Group relative to the constituent REITs in the FTSE ST REIT Index.
The above performance measure has been selected as a key measurement of wealth creation for Unitholders. The final number of Units to be released will depend on the Ascendas Reit Group's performance against the pre-determined targets over the three-year qualifying performance period. This serves to align Management’s interests with that of Unitholders in the longer term and to deter short-term risk taking. No Units will be released if the threshold target is not met at the end of the qualifying performance period. On the other hand, if superior targets are met, more Units than the PUP baseline award can be delivered up to a maximum of 200% of the PUP baseline award. The NRC has the discretion to adjust the number of Units released taking into consideration other relevant quantitative and qualitative factors. The recipient will receive fully paid Units at no cost.
For FY2021, the relevant award for assessment of the performance achieved by the Ascendas Reit Group is the award granted in FY2019 where the qualifying performance period was FY2019 to FY2021. Based on the NRC’s assessment that the performance achieved by the Ascendas Reit Group has met the pre-determined performance targets for such performance period, the resulting number of Units released has been adjusted accordingly to reflect the performance level.
In respect of the Unit awards granted under the PUP in FY2020 and FY2021, the respective qualifying performance periods have not ended as at the date of this Report.
Ascendas Funds Management (S) Limited Restricted Unit Plan
In FY2021, the Board granted awards which are conditional on targets set for a one-year performance period. A specified number of Units will only be released to recipients at the end of the qualifying performance period, provided that minimally the threshold targets are achieved.
Under the RUP, an initial number of Units (RUP baseline award) is allocated conditional on the achievement of pre-determined targets in respect of the following performance conditions:
(a) Net property income of the Ascendas Reit Group; and
(b) Distribution per Unit of the Ascendas Reit Group.
The above performance measures have been selected as they are the key drivers of business performance and are aligned to Unitholder value. The final number of Units to be released will depend on the Ascendas Reit Group's performance against the pre-determined targets at the end of the one-year qualifying performance period. The Units will be released in equal annual tranches over a vesting period of three years. No Units will be released if the threshold targets are not met at the end of the qualifying performance period. On the other hand, if superior targets are met, more Units than the RUP baseline award can be delivered up to a maximum of 150% of the RUP baseline award. The NRC has the discretion to adjust the number of Units released taking into consideration other relevant quantitative and qualitative factors. Recipients will receive fully paid Units at no cost.
In respect of the Unit awards granted under the RUP in FY2021, based on the NRC’s assessment that the performance achieved by the Ascendas Reit Group has met the pre-determined performance targets for FY2021, the resulting number of Units released has been adjusted accordingly to reflect the performance level.
The Unit Plans of the Manager are performance-based and vest over a period of three years. Coupled with interlocking annual grants, this ensures ongoing alignment between remuneration and sustainable business performance in the longer term.
D. Employee Benefits:
The benefits provided are comparable with local market practices.
At present, there are five key management personnel. Each year, the NRC evaluates the extent to which each of the key management personnel has delivered on the business and individual goals and objectives, and based on the outcome of the evaluation, approves the compensation for the key management personnel. In such evaluation, the NRC considers whether the level of remuneration is appropriate to attract, retain and motivate key management personnel to successfully manage Ascendas Reit for the long term. The CEO does not attend discussions relating to his own performance and remuneration.
Provision 8.1 of the Code requires an issuer to disclose the CEO’s exact remuneration amount and the requisite remuneration band for each of the other key management personnel (who are not also Directors or the CEO). The Board has considered carefully and decided that such disclosure would not be in the interests of the Manager or Unitholders due to the intense competition for talents in the industry, as well as the need to balance the confidential and commercial sensitivities associated with remuneration matters. The Manager is making available, however, the CEO’s remuneration amount in a band of S$250,000 and the aggregate of the total remuneration of the other key management personnel (excluding the CEO) together with a breakdown of their respective remuneration components in percentage terms, which are set out in the Key Management Personnel’s Remuneration Table on page 144 of this Annual Report. The Manager is of the view that its practice of disclosing the afore-mentioned information and the other disclosures on this Report is consistent with the intent of Principle 8 of the code and provides sufficient information and transparency to the Unitholders on the Manager’s remuneration policies and the level and mix of remuneration, the procedure for setting remuneration and the relationship between remuneration, performance and value creation. In addition, the remuneration of the key management personnel is not borne by Ascendas Reit as it is paid out of the fees that the Manager receives (the quantum and basis of which have been disclosed).
Apart from the key management personnel and other employees of the Manager, the Manager outsources various other services to a wholly owned subsidiary of CLI (CLI Subsidiary). The CLI Subsidiary provides the services through its employees and employees of CLI Group (together, the Outsourced Personnel). This arrangement is put in place so as to provide flexibility and maximise efficiency in resource management to match the needs of Ascendas Reit from time to time, as well as to leverage on economies of scale and tap on the management talent of an established corporate group which can offer enhanced depth and breadth of experience. However, notwithstanding the outsourcing arrangement, the responsibility for due diligence, oversight and accountability continues to reside with the Board and Management. In this regard, the remuneration of such Outsourced Personnel, being employees of the CLI Subsidiary and CLI Group, is not included as part of the disclosure of remuneration of key management personnel of the Manager in this Report.
The Board, together with the NRC, seeks to ensure that the remuneration of the CEO and other key management personnel is strongly linked to the achievement of business and individual performance targets. The performance targets are set at realistic yet stretched levels each year to motivate a high degree of business performance with emphasis on both shorter-term and longer-term quantifiable objectives.
In FY2021, a one-time Special CLI Founders Performance Share Plan (Special PSP Award) was granted by the CLI Group to selected senior executives within the group (including the Manager) to commemorate its listing, foster a “founders’ mindset” in driving transformation, and retain talent. The grant has a five-year vesting period with defined performance parameters which are linked to CLI. Subject to the performance achieved, the award may vest at the end of the third year and/or fifth year. In addition, such compensation is in the longterm interests of Ascendas Reit as Ascendas Reit is a key part of CLI’s business and ecosystem (and CLI is also the largest Unitholder of Ascendas Reit), and Management’s actions to grow Ascendas Reit and drive Ascendas Reit’s performance will also have a positive impact on CLI, thus reinforcing the complementary nature of the linked performance between Ascendas Reit and CLI. The cost of this one-time award will be borne by the Manager and it is not expected to form a significant part of the key management personnel’s remuneration over a fiveyear period. In addition, as can be seen in the “Key Management Personnel’s Remuneration Table for FY2021” a proportion of the Management’s remuneration is paid in the form of Units, which further incentivises the Management to take actions which are beneficial to the Unitholders. Accordingly, the Special PSP Award will not result in the Management prioritising the interest of CLI over that of Ascendas Reit given that the bulk of their remuneration is determined based on the evaluation of the performance of Ascendas Reit and a proportion of their remuneration comprises Units. In addition, it should be further noted that under the SFA, the Manager and Directors of the Manager are required to act in the best interest of Ascendas Reit and give priority to the interest of Ascendas Reit over the interests of the shareholders of the Manager, and this would further mitigate any potential conflicts of interests. Save for the Special PSP Award, the NRC will continue to assess and reward the key management personnel based on the performance of Ascendas Reit. Accordingly, the Manager is of the view that there would not be any conflicts of interest arising from the arrangement, nor would the arrangement result in any misalignment of interest with those of Unitholders.
In FY2021, no termination, retirement or post-employment benefits were granted to Directors, the CEO and other key management personnel. There was also no special retirement plan, ‘golden parachute’ or special severance package for any of the key management personnel.
In FY2021, there were no employees of the Manager who were substantial shareholders of the Manager, substantial Unitholders of Ascendas Reit or immediate family members of a Director, the CEO, any substantial shareholder of the Manager or any substantial Unitholder of Ascendas Reit. “Immediate family member” refers to the spouse, child, adopted child, step-child, sibling or parent of the individual.
Disclosures under AIFMR
The Manager is required under the AIFMR to make quantitative disclosures of remuneration. Disclosures are provided in relation to (a) the staff of the Manager; (b) staff who are senior management; and (c) staff who have the ability to materially affect the risk profile of Ascendas Reit.
All individuals included in the aggregated figures disclosed are rewarded in line with the Manager’s remuneration policies described in this Report.
The aggregate amount of remuneration awarded by the Manager to its staff (including CEO and non-executive Directors) in respect of FY2021 was approximately S$10.17 million. This figure comprised fixed pay of S$5.94 million, variable pay of S$3.67 million (including Units issued under the Unit Plans, where applicable) and allowances and benefits-in-kind of S$0.56 million. There was a total of 63 beneficiaries of the remuneration described above. In respect of FY2021, the aggregate amount of remuneration awarded by the Manager to its senior management (which are also members of staff whose actions have a material impact on the risk profile of Ascendas Reit) was approximately S$4.33 million, comprising 7 individuals identified having considered, among others, their roles and decision-making powers.
Remuneration for Non-Executive Directors
The non-executive Directors’ fees are paid by the Manager and the FY2021 fees, together with a breakdown of the components, are set out in the Non-Executive Directors’ Remuneration Table on page 145 of this Annual Report.
The compensation policy for non-executive Directors is based on a scale of fees divided into basic retainer fees for serving as Director and additional fees for attendance and serving on Board Committees. The Non-Executive Directors’ fee structure and Directors’ fees are reviewed and benchmarked against the REIT industry and taking into account the effort, time spent and demanding responsibilities on the part of the non-executive Directors in light of the scale, complexity and geographic scope of the Ascendas Reit Group’s business. The remuneration of non-executive Directors is reviewed from time to time to ensure that it is appropriate to attract, retain and motivate the non-executive Directors to provide good stewardship of the Manager and Ascendas Reit.
The CEO, who is an executive Director, is remunerated as part of the key management personnel of the Manager and does not receive any Director’s fees. The non-executive Directors who are employees of the CLI Group also do not receive any Directors’ fees.
The non-executive Directors’ fees are paid in cash (about 80%) and in the form of Units (about 20%), save that (i) a non-executive Director (not being an employee of the CLI Group) who steps down from the Board during a financial year will be paid fees fully in cash and; (ii) Dr Beh Swan Gin’s fees are paid fully in cash to a government agency, The Directorship & Consultancy Appointments Council. The Manager believes that the payment of a portion of the non-executive Directors’ fees in Units will serve to align the interests of non-executive Directors with the interests of Unitholders and Ascendas Reit’s long-term growth and value. The payment of Non-Executive Directors’ fees in Units is satisfied out of the Units held by the Manager. No individual Director is involved in any decision of the NRC relating to his or her own remuneration.
In order to encourage the alignment of the interests of the non-executive Directors with the interests of Unitholders, a non-executive Director is required to hold the number of Units worth at least one year of his or her basic retainer fee or the total number of Units awarded to him or her, whichever is lower, at all times during his or her Board tenure.
As with previous years, an independent remuneration consultant, Willis Towers Watson, was engaged in FY2021 to provide professional advice on Board remuneration, with a view to ensuring the fee structure remains in line with market. The framework for the non-executive Directors’ fees has remained unchanged from that of the previous financial year
(C) Accountability and Audit
Principle 9: Risk Management and Internal Controls
The Manager maintains an adequate and effective system of risk management and internal controls (including financial, operational, compliance and information technology (IT) controls) to safeguard Unitholders’ interests and the Ascendas Reit Group’s assets.
The Board has overall responsibility for the governance of risk, including determining the risk strategy, risk appetite and risk limits, as well as the risk policies. The Board has established the ARC to assist it in carrying out the Board’s responsibility of overseeing the Ascendas Reit’s risk management framework and policies for the Ascendas Reit Group and ensuring that the Manager maintains a sound system of risk management and internal controls.
Under its terms of reference, the ARC’s scope of duties and responsibilities with regard to risk management and internal controls systems is as follows:
(a) make recommendations to the Board on risk strategy, risk appetite and risk limits;
(b) review the risk management framework, including the processes and resources to identify, assess and manage material risks;
(c) oversee the design, implementation and monitoring of the risk management and internal controls systems;
(d) review the material risks facing the Ascendas Reit Group and the management of risks thereof;
(e) review the adequacy and effectiveness of the risk management and internal controls systems covering material risks and the assurance given by the Management, as well as the disclosures in the Annual Report; and
(f) consider and advise on risk matters referred to it by the Board or Manager.
The Manager adopts an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Framework which sets out the required environmental and organisational components for managing risks in an integrated, systematic and consistent manner. The ERM Framework and related policies are reviewed annually.
As part of the ERM Framework, the Manager undertakes and performs a Group-wide Risk and Control Self-Assessment (RCSA) annually to identify material risks along with their mitigating measures.
The adequacy and effectiveness of the systems of risk management and internal controls are reviewed at least annually by the Manager, the ARC and the Board, taking into account the Listing Manual and the best practices and guidance in the Risk Governance Guidance for Listed Boards issued by the Corporate Governance Council.
The Ascendas Reit Group’s Risk Appetite Statement (RAS), which incorporates the Ascendas Reit Group’s risk limits, addresses the management of material risks faced by the Ascendas Reit Group. Alignment of the Ascendas Reit Group’s risk profile to the RAS is achieved through various communication and monitoring mechanisms (including key performance indicators set for the Manager) put in place across the Ascendas Reit Group.
More information on the Manager’s ERM Framework including the material risks identified can be found in the ERM section on pages 146 to 153 of this Annual Report.
The internal and external auditors conduct reviews of the adequacy and effectiveness of the material internal controls (including financial, operational, compliance and IT controls) and risk management systems. This includes testing, where practicable, material internal controls in areas managed by external service providers. Any material non-compliance or lapses in internal controls together with corrective measures recommended by the internal and external auditors are reported to and reviewed by the ARC. The ARC also reviews the adequacy and effectiveness of the measures taken by the Manager on the recommendations made by the internal and external auditors in this respect.
The Board has received assurance from the CEO and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Manager that: the financial records of the Ascendas Reit Group have been properly maintained and the financial statements for FY2021 give a true and fair view of the Ascendas Reit Group’s operations and finances. It has also received assurance from the CEO and the relevant key management personnel who have responsibility regarding various aspects of risk management and internal controls that the systems of risk management and internal controls within the Ascendas Reit Group are adequate and effective to address the risks (including financial, operational, compliance and IT risks) which the Manager considers relevant and material to its current business environment.
The CEO, the CFO and the relevant key management personnel of the Manager have obtained similar assurances from the respective risk and control owners.
In addition, for FY2021, the Board received quarterly certification by the Manager on the integrity of financial reporting and the Board provided a negative assurance confirmation to Unitholders as required by the Listing Manual.
Based on the ERM Framework established and the reviews conducted by the Manager and both the internal and external auditors, as well as the assurance from the CEO, the CFO and the relevant key management personnel, the Board is of the opinion that the systems of risk management and internal controls are adequate and effective to address the risks (including financial, operational, compliance and IT risks) which the Ascendas Reit Group considers relevant and material to its current business environment as at 31 December 2021. The ARC concurs with the Board in its opinion. No material weaknesses in the systems of risk management and internal controls were identified by the Board or the ARC in the review for FY2021.
The Board notes that the systems of risk management and internal controls established by the Manager provide reasonable assurance that the Ascendas Reit Group, as it strives to achieve its business objectives, will not be significantly affected by any event that can be reasonably foreseen or anticipated. However, the Board also notes that no system of risk management and internal controls can provide absolute assurance in this regard, or absolute assurance against poor judgement in decision-making, human error, losses, fraud or other irregularities.
Principle 10: Audit and Risk Committee
At present, the ARC comprises four members, all of whom (including the chairman of the ARC) are IDs. The ARC Chairman is a Director other than the Chairman of the Board. The ARC Chairman and members bring with them invaluable recent and relevant managerial and professional expertise in accounting, auditing and related financial management domains.
The ARC does not comprise former partners of Ascendas Reit’s incumbent external auditors, Ernst & Young LLP (a) within a period of two years commencing from the date of their ceasing to be partners of Ernst & Young LLP; or (b) who have any financial interest in Ernst & Young LLP.
The ARC has explicit authority to investigate any matter within its terms of reference. Management provides the fullest co-operation in providing information and resources, and in implementing or carrying out all requests made by the ARC. The ARC has direct access to the internal and external auditors and full discretion to invite any Director or key management personnel to attend its meetings. Similarly, both the internal and external auditors have unrestricted access to the ARC.
Under its terms of reference, the ARC’s scope of duties and responsibilities includes:
(a) reviewing the significant financial reporting issues and judgements so as to ensure the integrity of the financial statements of Ascendas Reit Group and any announcements relating to the Ascendas Reit Group’s financial performance;
(b) reviewing and reporting to the Board at least annually the adequacy and effectiveness of the Manager’s internal controls (including financial, operational, compliance and IT controls) and risk management systems;
(c) reviewing the scope and results of the external audit and the independence and objectivity of the external auditors;
(d) reviewing the scope and results of the internal audit and the adequacy and effectiveness of the Manager’s internal audit and compliance functions;
(e) making recommendations to the Board on the proposals to Unitholders on the appointment, re-appointment and removal of the external auditors, and approving the remuneration and terms of engagement of the external auditors;
(f) reviewing and approving processes to regulate transactions between an interested person (as defined in Chapter 9 of the Listing Manual) and/or interested party (as defined in the Property Funds Appendix) (each, an Interested Person) and Ascendas Reit and/or its subsidiaries (Interested Person Transactions), to ensure compliance with the applicable regulations. The regulations include the requirements that Interested Person Transactions are on normal commercial terms and are not prejudicial to the interests of Ascendas Reit and its minority Unitholders. In respect of any property management agreement which is an Interested Person Transaction, the ARC also carries out reviews at appropriate intervals to satisfy itself that the Manager has reviewed the property manager’s compliance with the terms of the property management agreement and has taken remedial actions where necessary; and
(g) reviewing the policy and arrangements for concerns about possible improprieties in financial reporting or other matters to be raised, and independently investigated, for appropriate follow up action to be taken.
The ARC undertook a review of the independence of the external auditors and the non-audit services provided by the auditors, taking into consideration, among other factors, Ascendas Reit’s relationships with the external auditors in FY2021, as well as the processes and safeguards adopted by the Manager and the external auditors relating to audit independence. Based on the review, the ARC is satisfied that the external auditors are independent. The external auditors have also provided confirmation of their independence to the ARC. The amount of fees paid or payable to the external auditors for FY2021 amounted to S$1,229,000, of which audit fees amounted to S$1,100,000 and non-audit fees (in relation to tax advisory services and sustainability reporting services) amounted to S$129,000.
The ARC holds at least four scheduled meetings in a year and met four times in FY2021. At all scheduled ARC meetings in FY2021, the CEO and the CFO were in attendance. During the ARC meetings in February 2021 and August 2021, among other things, the ARC reviewed the full year and half year financial statements, including the relevance and consistency of the accounting principles adopted and any significant financial reporting issues, and recommended the full year and half year financial statements and corresponding announcements to the Board for approval. During the ARC meetings in April 2021 and October 2021, the ARC reviewed, among other things, the quarterly business and financial updates presented by Management, which were then presented to the Board for approval. Such business updates contain, among other things, information on the Ascendas Reit’s key operating and financial metrics.
In FY2021, the ARC also reviewed and assessed the adequacy and effectiveness of the internal controls and risk management systems established by the Manager to manage risks, taking into consideration the outcome of reviews conducted by Management and both the internal and external auditors, as well as the assurances from the CEO and the CFO.
The ARC also meets with the external auditors and with the internal auditors, without the presence of Management, at least once a year. In FY2021, the ARC met with the external auditors and internal auditors once, and without Management’s presence, to discuss the reasonableness of the financial reporting process, the internal controls and risk management systems, and the significant comments and recommendations by the auditors.
Where relevant, the ARC makes reference to the best practices and guidance for audit committees in Singapore including practice directions issued from time to time in relation to the Financial Reporting Surveillance Programme administered by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore (ACRA).
Key Audit Matter
In the review of the financial statements of Ascendas Reit Group for FY2021, the ARC has discussed with Management the accounting principles that were applied and their judgement of items that might affect the integrity of the financial statements and also considered the clarity of key disclosures in the financial statements. The ARC reviewed, amongst other matters, the following key audit matters as reported by the external auditors for FY2021.
The Manager confirms, on behalf of Ascendas Reit, that Ascendas Reit complies with Rules 712 and 715 of the Listing Manual.
The Manager has in place an internal audit function supported by CLI’s Internal Audit Department (CLI IA). CLI IA is independent of the activities it audits and has unfettered access to the Ascendas Reit Group’s documents, records, properties and employees, including access to the ARC, and has appropriate standing with respect to the Manager. The primary reporting line of CLI IA in respect of Ascendas Reit Group is to the ARC, however, the ARC does not decide on the appointment, termination and remuneration of the head of CLI IA as it operates at the CLI Group level. While this is a deviation from Provision 10.4 which requires the ARC to decide on the appointment, termination and remuneration of the head of the internal audit function, CLI IA is able to carry out its role effectively for the reasons below and is accordingly consistent with the intent of Principle 10 of the Code.
The ARC monitors and assesses the role and effectiveness of the internal audit function through reviewing the internal audit process from time to time and may make recommendations to the Board for any changes to the internal audit process. The ARC also reviews to ensure that the internal audit function is adequately resourced and skilled in line with the nature, size and complexity of the Manager and Ascendas Reit Group’s business, and that an adequate budget is allocated to the internal audit function to assure its proper functioning. In respect of FY2021, the ARC has carried out a review of the internal audit function and is satisfied that the internal audit function performed by CLI IA is adequately resourced, effective and independent.
CLI IA plans its internal audit schedules in consultation with, but independently of, Management and its plan is submitted to the ARC for approval prior to the beginning of each year. During FY2021, the ARC reviewed the results of audits performed by CLI IA based on the approved audit plan. The ARC also reviewed reports on whistle blower complaints reviewed by CLI IA to ensure independent and thorough investigation and adequate follow up. The ARC also received reports on Interested Person Transactions reviewed by CLI IA that they were on normal commercial terms and are not prejudicial to the interests of Ascendas Reit and its minority Unitholders.
CLI IA is adequately resourced and staffed with persons with the relevant qualifications and experience. CLI IA is a corporate member of The Institute of Internal Auditors Inc. (IIA), Singapore, which is an affiliate of the IIA with its headquarters in the United States of America (USA). CLI IA subscribes to, and is guided by, the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing (Standards) developed by IIA, and has incorporated these Standards into its audit practices.
To ensure that internal audits are performed by competent professionals, CLI IA recruits and employs suitably qualified professional staff with the requisite skill sets and experience. For instance, CLI IA staff who are involved in IT audits have the relevant professional IT certifications and are also members of the ISACA Singapore Chapter, a professional body administering information systems audit and information security certifications that is headquartered in the USA. The ISACA Information Systems Auditing Standards provide guidance on the standards and procedures to be applied in IT audits. CLI IA identifies and provides training and development opportunities for its staff to ensure their technical knowledge and skill sets remain current and relevant.
(D) UNITHOLDER RIGHTS AND ENGAGEMENT
Principles 11, 12 and 13: Shareholder Rights and Conduct of General Meetings, Engagement with Shareholders, Managing Stakeholder Relationships
The Manager is committed to treating all Unitholders fairly and equitably. All Unitholders enjoy specific rights under the Trust Deed and the relevant laws and regulations. These rights include, among other things, the right to participate in profit distributions.
In FY2021, Ascendas Reit’s AGM was convened and held on 29 April 2021 (AGM 2021) by way of electronic means pursuant to the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Alternative Arrangements for Meetings for Companies, Variable Capital Companies, Business Trusts, Unit Trusts and Debenture Holders) Order 2020 (COVID-19 Temporary Measures Order) and in accordance with the checklist jointly issued by ACRA, MAS and Singapore Exchange Regulation, which gave guidance to listed and non-listed entities on the conduct of general meetings amid the evolving COVID-19 situation (Checklist).
The alternative arrangements put in place for the conduct of AGM 2021 included attendance at the AGM 2021 via electronic means under which unitholders could observe and/or listen to the AGM 2021 proceedings via live audio-visual webcast or live audio-only stream, submission of questions in advance of the AGM 2021, addressing of substantial and relevant questions prior to or at the AGM 2021 and voting by appointing the chairman of the meeting as proxy at the AGM 2021. All Directors (including the CEO who is also a Director) attended the AGM 2021 either in-person or via electronic means. A record of the Directors’ attendance at the AGM 2021 can be found in the record of their attendance at general meeting(s) and Board and Board Committee meetings for FY2021 set out on page 144 of this Annual Report. The upcoming AGM to be held on 28 April 2022 will also be convened and held by way of electronic means pursuant to the COVID-19 Temporary Measures Order and the Checklist. Unitholders will be entitled to submit questions in advance of and/or live at the AGM through the live chat function via the audio-visual platform, and vote at the AGM live by themselves or through their duly appointed proxy(ies) (other than the chairman of the meeting) via electronic means or by appointing the chairman of the meeting as their proxy to vote on their behalf, to facilitate interaction between the Board, Management and Unitholders. Further details on the alternative arrangements put in place for the conduct of the upcoming AGM are set out in the Manager’s notice of AGM dated 6 April 2022.
Unitholders are entitled to attend general meetings and are accorded the opportunity to participate effectively and vote at general meetings (including through the appointment of up to two proxies, if they are unable to attend in person or in the case of a corporate Unitholder, through its appointed representative). Unitholders such as nominee companies which provide custodial services for securities are not constrained by the two proxy limitation, and are able to appoint more than two proxies to attend, speak and vote at general meetings of Ascendas Reit. Nevertheless, for AGM 2021 which was convened and held pursuant to the COVID-19 Temporary Measures Order and the Checklist, Unitholders may only appoint the chairman of the meeting as their proxy to attend, speak and vote on their behalf at the general meeting. Ascendas Reit supports the principle of encouraging Unitholder participation and voting at general meetings. Ascendas Reit’s Annual Report is provided to Unitholders within 120 days from the end of Ascendas Reit’s financial year. Unitholders may download the Annual Report (printed copies are available upon request) and notice of the general meeting from the Website. More than the legally required notice period for general meetings is generally provided. The notice of the general meeting is also available on SGXNet. The rationale and explanation for each agenda item which requires Unitholders’ approval at a general meeting are provided in the notice of the general meeting or in the accompanying circular (if any) issued to Unitholders in respect of the matter(s) for approval at the general meeting. This enables Unitholders to exercise their votes on an informed basis. To safeguard the Unitholders’ interests and rights, a separate resolution is proposed for each substantially separate matter to be approved at a general meeting.
At AGMs, Management makes a presentation to Unitholders to update them on Ascendas Reit’s performance, position and prospects. The presentation materials are made available to Unitholders on the Website and also on SGXNet.
Unitholders are informed of the rules governing general meetings and are given the opportunity to communicate their views, ask questions and discuss with the Board and Management on matters affecting Ascendas Reit. Representatives of the Trustee, Directors (including the chairman of the respective Board Committees), key management personnel and the external auditors of Ascendas Reit, are present for the entire duration of the AGMs to address any queries that the Unitholders may have, including queries about the conduct of Ascendas Reit’s external audit and the preparation and contents of the external auditors’ report.
To ensure transparency in the voting process and better reflect Unitholders’ interests, Ascendas Reit conducts electronic poll voting for all the resolutions proposed at general meetings. Nevertheless, for AGM 2021 which was convened and held pursuant to the COVID-19 Temporary Measures Order and the Checklist, Unitholders voted by appointing the chairman of the meeting as their proxy to vote on their behalf. One Unit is entitled to one vote. Voting procedures and the rules governing general meetings are explained and vote tabulations are disclosed at the general meetings. An independent scrutineer is also appointed to validate the vote tabulation procedures. Votes cast, for or against and the respective percentages, on each resolution are tallied and displayed ‘live’ on-screen to Unitholders after each resolution is voted on at the general meetings. The total number of votes cast for or against each resolution and the respective percentages are also announced on SGXNet after the general meetings.
Provision 11.4 of the Code requires an issuer’s Constitution to allow for absentia voting at general meetings of shareholders. Ascendas Reit’s Trust Deed currently does not permit Unitholders to vote at general meetings in absentia (such as via mail or email). The Manager will consider implementing the relevant amendments to Ascendas Reit’s Trust Deed to permit absentia voting after it has carried out careful study and is satisfied that the integrity of information and the authentication of the identity of Unitholders through the internet will not be compromised, and after the implementation of legislative changes to recognise remote voting. The Manager is of the view that despite the deviation from Provision 11.4 of the Code, Unitholders nevertheless have opportunities to communicate their views on matters affecting Ascendas Reit even when they are not in attendance at general meetings. For example, Unitholders may appoint proxies to attend, speak and vote, on their behalf, at general meetings.
Minutes of the general meetings recording the substantial and relevant comments made, questions raised and answers provided, are prepared and are available to Unitholders for their inspection upon request. Minutes of general meetings are also made available on the Website. Accordingly, the rights of the Unitholders are consistent with the intent of Principle 11 of the Code.
Ascendas Reit’s distribution policy is to distribute at least 90.0% of its taxable income (other than gains from the disposal of properties, and unrealised surplus on revaluation of investment properties and investment properties under development) on a semi-annual basis, with the actual level of distribution to be determined at the Manager’s discretion. Distributions are generally paid within 35 market days after the relevant record date.
Timely Disclosure of Information
The Manager is committed to keeping all Unitholders, other stakeholders, analysts and the media informed of Ascendas Reit’s performance and any changes in the Ascendas Reit Group or its business which would likely to materially affect the price or value of the Units.
For FY2021, the Manager provided Unitholders with half year and full year financial statements within the relevant periods prescribed by the Listing Manual. These half year and full year financial statements were reviewed and approved by the Board prior to release to Unitholders by announcement on SGXNet. The release of half year and full year financial statements were accompanied by news releases issued to the media and which were also made available on SGXNet. In presenting the half year and full year financial statements to Unitholders, the Board sought to provide Unitholders with a balanced, clear and comprehensible assessment of Ascendas Reit and the Ascendas Reit Group’s performance, position and prospects.
In addition to the announcement of half-year and full year financial statements in FY2021, in keeping with the Manager’s commitment to provide its Unitholders with information promptly, the Manager also provided Unitholders, on a voluntary basis, with quarterly business updates in between the announcement of half-yearly financial statements. Such business updates contain, among other things, information on the Ascendas Reit Group’s key operating and financial metrics. In addition to the release of financial statements, the Manager also keeps Ascendas Reit’s Unitholders, stakeholders and analysts informed of the performance and changes in the Ascendas Reit Group or its business which would likely materially affect the price or value of the Units on a timely and consistent basis, so as to assist Unitholders and investors in their investment decisions. This is performed through the release on SGXNet of announcements in compliance with regulatory reporting requirements and news releases for the media, on a timely and consistent basis. These announcements and news releases are also posted on the Website. In addition, the Manager also conducts analysts’ and media briefings, and the materials used for such briefings are uploaded on SGXNet.
The Manager has a formal policy on corporate disclosure controls and procedures to ensure that Ascendas Reit complies with its disclosure obligations under the Listing Manual. These controls and procedures incorporate the decision-making process and an obligation on internal reporting of the decisions made.
The Manager believes in conducting the business of Ascendas Reit in ways that seek to deliver sustainable value to Unitholders. Best practices are promoted as a means to build an excellent business for Ascendas Reit and the Manager’s accountability to Unitholders for Ascendas Reit’s performance. Prompt fulfilment of statutory reporting requirements is but one way to maintain Unitholders’ confidence and trust in the capability and integrity of the Manager.
The Manager has in place an Investor Relations department which facilitates effective communication with Unitholders and analysts. The Manager also maintains the Website which contains information on Ascendas Reit including but not limited to its Prospectus, current and past announcements and news releases, financial statements, investor presentations and Annual Reports.
The Manager actively engages with Unitholders with a view to solicit and understand their views, and has put in place an Investor Relations Policy to promote regular, effective and fair communications with Unitholders. The Investor Relations Policy, which sets out the mechanism through which Unitholders may contact the Manager with questions and through which the Manager may respond to such questions, is available on the Website. Unitholders are welcomed to engage with the Manager beyond general meetings and they may do so by contacting the Investor Relations department whose details may be found via the Contact Us section on the Website.
More information on the Manager’s investor and media relations efforts can be found in the Investor Relations section on pages 58 to 61 of this Annual Report.
The Manager also has in place a corporate communications function supported by CLI’s Group Communications department which works closely with the media and oversees Ascendas Reit’s media communications efforts.
Managing Stakeholder Relationships
The Board’s role includes considering sustainability as part of its strategic formulation. The Manager adopts an inclusive approach for Ascendas Reit by considering and balancing the needs and interests of material stakeholders, as part of the overall strategy to ensure that the best interests of Ascendas Reit are served. The Manager is committed to sustainability and incorporates the key principles of environmental and social responsibility, and corporate governance in Ascendas Reit’s business strategies and operations. The Manager has arrangements in place to identify and engage with material stakeholder groups from time to time to gather feedback on the sustainability issues most important to them and to manage its relationships with such groups. Such arrangements include maintaining the Website, which is kept updated with current information, to facilitate communication and engagement with Ascendas Reit’s stakeholders. More details of Ascendas Reit’s sustainability approach, environmental policies and stakeholder engagement can be found in the Integrated Sustainability Report prepared in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards.
(E) Additional Information
In addition to the ARC and NRC, the Board has also established an IC.
The IC comprises six Directors, three of whom are IDs. The six members on the IC are Mr Manohar Khiatani (IC Chairman), Dr Beh Swan Gin, Mr William Tay Wee Leong, Mr Daniel Cuthbert Ee Hock Huat, Mr Chinniah Kunnasagaran and Mr Lim Cho Pin Andrew Geoffrey.
The IC is authorised to review all matters within its terms of reference. Pursuant to the IC’s terms of reference, the IC’s scope of duties and responsibilities involve assisting the Board in its oversight of responsibilities in the areas of investment, divestment and asset enhancement initiatives within the IC’s approval limits.
For FY2021, the IC regularly reviewed and approved matters tabled via circulation.
Dealings with Interested Persons
Review Procedures for Interested Person Transactions
The Manager has established internal control procedures to ensure that all Interested Person Transactions are undertaken on an arm’s length basis and on normal commercial terms, which are generally no more favourable than those extended to unrelated third parties, and are not prejudicial to the interests of Ascendas Reit and Unitholders.
In respect of such transactions, the Manager would have to demonstrate to the ARC that such transactions are undertaken on normal commercial terms and are not prejudicial to the interests of Ascendas Reit and Unitholders which may include obtaining (where practicable) third party quotations or obtaining valuations from independent valuers (in accordance with applicable provisions of the Listing Manual and the Property Funds Appendix). The internal control procedures also ensure compliance with Chapter 9 of the Listing Manual and the Property Funds Appendix.
In particular, the procedures in place include the following:The Manager has engaged BDO LLP (BDO) to carry out reviews on IPTs on a quarterly basis. As part of this engagement, BDO reviews, amongst other procedures, the maintenance of IPT registers, process of identification of IPTs, the comparables used for assessing if IPTs are undertaken on an arm’s length basis and on normal commercial terms, and that there is reasonable and valid documentation supporting the conclusions on IPTs. Guidelines and procedures established to monitor IPTs are also audited on a periodic basis.
Role of the Audit & Risk Committee for Interested Person Transactions
The Manager’s internal control procedures are intended to ensure that Interested Person Transactions are conducted at arm’s length, on normal commercial terms and are not prejudicial to Ascendas Reit and Unitholders’ interests.
The Manager maintains a register to record all Interested Person Transactions which are entered into by Ascendas Reit (and the basis on which they are entered into, including the quotations obtained to support such basis). All Interested Person Transactions are subject to regular periodic reviews by the ARC, which in turn obtains advice from BDO, to ascertain that the guidelines and procedures established to monitor Interested Person Transactions, including the relevant provisions of the Listing Manual and the Property Funds Appendix, as well as any other guidelines which may from time to time be prescribed by the SGX-ST, MAS or other relevant authorities, have been complied with. The review includes an examination of the nature of the transaction and its supporting documents or such other information deemed necessary by the ARC. If a member of the ARC has an interest in a transaction, he or she is to abstain from participating in the review and approval process in relation to that transaction. The ARC and the Trustee received quarterly reports on IPTs reviewed by BDO that they were on normal commercial terms and are not prejudicial to the interests of Ascendas Reit and its minority Unitholders
Details of all Interested Person Transactions (equal to or exceeding S$100,000 each in value) entered into by Ascendas Reit in FY2021 are disclosed on page 261 of this Annual Report.
Dealing with Conflicts of Interest
The following principles and procedures have been established to deal with potential conflicts of interest which the Manager (including its Directors, key management personnel and employees) may encounter in managing Ascendas Reit:
(a) the Manager is a dedicated manager to Ascendas Reit and will not manage any other REIT or be involved in any other real property business;
(b) all resolutions at meetings of the Board in relation to matters concerning Ascendas Reit must be decided by a majority vote of the Directors, including at least one ID;
(c) in respect of matters in which CLI and/or its subsidiaries have an interest, whether direct or indirect, any nominees appointed by CLI and/or its subsidiaries to the Board will abstain from voting. In such matters, the quorum must comprise a majority of IDs and shall exclude such nominee Directors of CLI and/or its subsidiaries;
(d) in respect of matters in which a Director or his or her associates have an interest, whether direct or indirect, such interested Director will abstain from voting. In such matters, the quorum must comprise a majority of the Directors and shall exclude such interested Director(s);
(e) if the Manager is required to decide whether or not to take any action against any person in relation to any breach of any agreement entered into by the Trustee for and on behalf of Ascendas Reit with an affiliate of the Manager, the Manager is obliged to consult with a reputable law firm (acceptable to the Trustee) which shall provide legal advice on the matter. If the said law firm is of the opinion that the Trustee, on behalf of Ascendas Reit, has a prima facie case against the party allegedly in breach under such agreement, the Manager is obliged to pursue the appropriate remedies under such agreement; and
(f) at least one-third of the Board shall comprise IDs.
In respect of voting rights where the Manager would face a conflict between its own interests and that of Unitholders, the Manager shall cause such voting rights to be exercised according to the discretion of the Trustee.
Dealings in Securities
The Manager has adopted a securities dealing policy for the officers and employees which applies the best practice recommendations in the Listing Manual. Under this policy, Directors and employees of the Manager as well as certain relevant executives of the CLI Group (together, the Relevant Persons) are required to refrain from dealing in Ascendas Reit’s securities (i) while in possession of material unpublished price-sensitive information, and (ii) during the one-month period immediately preceding, and up to the time of the announcement of Ascendas Reit’s half-year and full-year financial statements during a financial year. Prior to the commencement of each relevant black-out period, an email would be sent to all the Relevant Persons to inform them of the duration of the black-out period. The Manager also does not deal in Ascendas Reit’s securities during the same black-out period. In addition, Directors and certain employees identified as “Key Insiders” are prohibited from dealing in the securities of Ascendas Reit, except during the open trading window (being one calendar month commencing from the relevant date of announcement of Ascendas Reit’s results) provided that they are not in possession of undisclosed material or price-sensitive information. Employees and Capital Markets Services License Appointed Representatives (CMSL Representatives) of the Manager are also required to give a pretrading notification to the CEO and the Compliance department before any dealing in Ascendas Reit’s securities.
This policy also provides for the Manager to maintain a list of persons who are privy to price-sensitive information relating to the Ascendas Reit Group as and when circumstances require such a list to be maintained.
Directors and employees of the Manager are also required to refrain from dealing in Ascendas Reit’s securities if they are in possession of unpublished price-sensitive information of Ascendas Reit arising from their appointment as Directors and/or in the course of performing their duties. As and when appropriate, they would be issued an advisory to refrain from dealing in Ascendas Reit’s securities.
Under this policy, Directors and employees of the Manager are also discouraged from trading on short-term or speculative considerations. They are also prohibited from using any information with respect to other companies or entities obtained in the course of their employment in connection with securities transactions of such companies or entities.
A Director is required to notify the Manager of his or her interest in Ascendas Reit’s securities within two business days after(a) the date on which he or she becomes a Director or (b) the date on which he or she acquires an interest in Ascendas Reit’s securities. A Director is also required to notify the Manager of any change in his or her interests in Ascendas Reit’s securities within two business days after he or she becomes aware of such change.
Dealings by the Directors are disclosed in accordance with the requirements in the SFA and the Listing Manual. In FY2021, based on the information available to the Manager, save as disclosed in accordance with such requirements and other than the awards of Units in part payment of Directors’ fees, there were no dealings by the Directors in Ascendas Reit’s securities.
Code of Business Conduct
The Manager adheres to an ethics and code of business conduct policy which deals with issues such as confidentiality, conduct and work discipline, corporate gifts and concessionary offers. Clear policies and guidelines on how to handle workplace harassment and grievances are also in place.
The policies and guidelines are published on CLI Group’s intranet, which is accessible by all employees of the Manager.
The policies that the Manager has implemented aim to help to detect and prevent occupational fraud in mainly three ways, as set out below.
First, the Manager offers fair compensation packages, based on practices of pay-for-performance and promotion based on merit to its employees. The Manager also provides various healthcare subsidies and financial assistance schemes to alleviate the common financial pressures its employees may face.
Second, clearly documented policies and work procedures incorporate internal controls which ensure that adequate checks and balances are in place. Periodic audits are also conducted to evaluate the efficacy of these internal controls.
Finally, the Manager seeks to build and maintain the right organisational culture through its core values, educating its employees on good business conduct and ethical values.
Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Risk Management Policy
In line with its core values, the Manager is committed to doing business with integrity. This is reflected in its longstanding zero tolerance stance against fraud, bribery and corruption. Consistent with this commitment, various policies and guidelines are in place to guide all employees of the Manager to maintain the highest standards of integrity in their work and business dealings. This includes clear guidelines and procedures for the giving and receipt of corporate gifts and concessionary offers, and an annual pledge by all employees of the Manager to uphold the Manager’s core values and to not engage in any corrupt or unethical practices. The Manager’s zero tolerance policy on bribery and corruption extends to its business dealings with third parties. Pursuant to this policy, the Manager requires that certain agreements incorporate anti-bribery and anti-corruption provisions.
The Manager’s employees adhere to CLI’s Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Risk Management Policy (FBC Risk Management Policy). The FBC Risk Management Policy reiterates the strong stance against fraud, bribery and corruption, and sets the overarching approach and standards in managing fraud, bribery and corruption risks in an integrated, systematic and consistent manner. The Manager’s stance against bribery and corruption is also reiterated by Management during its regular staff communication sessions.
A whistle-blowing policy has been put in place by the Manager which sets out the procedures for the Manager’s employees and parties who have dealings with the Manager to make a report to the Manager on misconduct or wrongdoings relating to the Manager and its officers. Procedures are put in place to provide such employees and parties with well defined, accessible and trusted channels to report suspected fraud, corruption, dishonest practices or other improprieties in the workplace, and for the independent investigation of any reported incidents and appropriate follow up action. The Manager ensures that the identity of the whistle-blower is kept confidential. The objective of this policy is to encourage the reporting of such matters so that employees or external parties making any reports in good faith will be able to do so with the confidence that they will be treated fairly and, to the extent possible, be protected from reprisal. The Manager is committed to ensuring protection of the whistle-blower against detrimental or unfair treatment. The ARC is responsible for oversight and monitoring of the investigation of whistle-blowing reports made in good faith. The ARC reviews all whistleblowing complaints at its scheduled meetings. Independent, thorough investigation and appropriate follow up actions are taken. The outcome of each investigation is reported to the ARC. All employees of the Manager are informed of this policy which is made available on CLI Group’s intranet.
Business Continuity Management
The Manager has implemented a Business Continuity Management (BCM) programme that puts in place the prevention, detection, response and, business recovery and resumption measures to minimise the impact of adverse business interruptions or unforeseen events on the Ascendas Reit Group’s operations and also has in place a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). Under the BCP, Management has identified the critical business functions, processes and resources, and is able to tap on a pool of CLI Group’s employees who are trained under a Business Psychological Resilience Programme to provide peer support to colleagues following the occurrence of adverse events. As part of the BCP, periodic desktop exercises and drills, simulating different scenarios, are carried out to stress-test the effectiveness of processes, procedures and escalation protocols. This holistic approach under the BCP serves to ensure organisational and staff preparedness and readiness to deal with adverse business disruptions such as acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, data breaches and epidemics. This approach aims to minimise financial loss to Ascendas Reit, allow the Manager to continue to function as the manager of Ascendas Reit and mitigate any negative effects that the disruptions could have on the Manager’s reputation, operations and ability to remain in compliance with relevant laws and regulations. The Manager has also acquired insurance policies for the Ascendas Reit Group on business interruption events.
Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Measures
As a holder of a Capital Markets Services License issued by MAS, the Manager abides by the MAS’ guidelines on the prevention of money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism. Under these guidelines, the main obligations of the Manager are:
(a) evaluation of risk;
(b) customer due diligence;
(c) suspicious transaction reporting;
(d) record keeping;
(e) employee and CMSL Representative screening; and
The Manager has in place a policy on the prevention of money laundering and terrorism financing and remains alert at all times to suspicious transactions. Enhanced due diligence checks are performed on counterparties where there is a suspicion of money laundering or terrorism financing. Suspicious transactions will also be reported to the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office of the Commercial Affairs Department.
Under this policy, all relevant records or documents relating to business relations with the Ascendas Reit Group’s customers or transactions entered into must be retained for a period of at least five years following the termination of such business relations or the completion of such transactions.
All prospective employees, officers and CMSL Representatives of the Manager are also screened against various money laundering and terrorism financing information sources and lists of designated entities and individuals provided by MAS. Periodic training is provided by the Manager to its Directors, employees and CMSL Representatives to ensure that they are updated and aware of applicable anti-money laundering and countering of terrorism financing regulations, the prevailing techniques and trends in money laundering and terrorism financing and the measures adopted by the Manager to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
Composition of Board Committees in FY2021
Attendance Record of Meetings of Unitholders, Board and Board Committees in FY20211
KEY MANAGEMENT PERSONNEL’S REMUNERATIONKey Management Personnel’s Remuneration Table for FY2021