Singapore PM kills "Temasek II" idea to help local firms

SINGAPORE, May 27 (Reuters) - The Singapore government will help nurture local companies compete in international markets, but will not force its sovereign wealth fund Temasek to finance them as suggested by some legislators, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told parliament on Wednesday. “Government wants to help companies grow, is trying many ways and is willing to do more,” Lee said. “But we don’t believe that this can be done by the government by simply pouring money, or creating a ‘Temasek II,’ he said.

His remarks were in response to ideas floated by two members of parliament on Tuesday that Temasek could make a greater difference to the island-state by helping home-grown enterprises expand regionally and globally.

The government has come under fire from citizens and lawmakers over losses at Temasek, in particular its ill-timed exit from Bank of America BAC.N which resulted in a loss of over $3 billion. [ID:nSP484090].

Temasek, which had around $87 billion in assets as of November 2008, is headed by prime minister's wife Ho Ching. Ho is stepping down later this year and will be replaced by Chip Goodyear, the former CEO of BHP Billiton BHP.AX on Oct 1.

Lee did not say how the government would help the local firms, but said the intention was part of the government’s five key economic strategies a committee chaired by Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam would study.

Tharman will answer questions from lawmakers about Temasek’s investment strategy on Thursday. (Reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Editing by Saeed Azhar)