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Olivia Lum

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Olivia Lum
Kampar, Perak, Malaysia
Alma materNational University of Singapore
Occupation(s)Group CEO & President, Hyflux Group of Companies
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese林愛蓮
Simplified Chinese林爱莲

Olivia Lum Ooi Lin is a Singaporean businesswoman. She is best known for being the founder, group chief executive officer, and president of the Singapore-based Hyflux Group.[1][2][3][4]

Early life[edit]

Lum was adopted at birth, and never knew her biological parents; she was brought up by a woman she called her "grandmother". When Lum was only three, her grandmother gambled away her savings; they lost the house in which they were living, and moved to a shack without running water.[1] She came to Singapore at the age of 15 and enrolled at the Tiong Bahru Secondary School, where she supported herself through tutoring and sales jobs. She went on to study at Hwa Chong Junior College and graduated in 1986 with an Honours degree in chemistry from the Faculty of Science of the National University of Singapore.[2]


Lum started corporate life as a chemist with Glaxo Pharmaceutical. After working for three years at Glaxo, she left in 1989 at the age of 28 to start up Hydrochem,[5] the precursor to Hyflux, with just SG$20,000 of capital, which she raised by selling her condominium and car.[2] She hired three employees at the start; Lum herself rode around on a motorcycle selling her company's water filters and treatment chemicals.[3] By January 2001, Hyflux had become the first water treatment company to be listed on SESDAQ, and was upgraded to the Singapore Exchange's Mainboard in April 2003.[6] By 2005, she had a net worth of over US$240 million, which earned her a place as the only woman on Forbes' "Southeast Asia Rich List".

Lum holds several positions in public service. She is a board member of SPRING Singapore, the National University Singapore Council, and the Singapore Exchange, as well as the president of the Singapore Water Association. She is also a member of the UNESCAP Business Advisory Council and the Singapore Green Plan 2012 coordinating committee.[7] Lum was a Nominated Member of Parliament in the Parliament of Singapore from 2 July 2002 to 1 January 2005.[8] In 2003, she was awarded the International Management Action Award, followed by the Global Female Invent and Innovate Award the following year.[9]

On 3 October 2008, Lum resigned her position as independent non-executive director of the Singapore Exchange and relinquished her position on the audit, regulatory conflicts and remuneration committees of the Exchange, according to the Exchange's filing. She stated this was due to her heavy work commitments in line with Hyflux's rapid expansion, and that her resignation would enable her to focus more time and resources on Hyflux's growth.[10]

In 2011, Lum was named Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur Of The Year and was the first woman to win the award.[11]

In 2013, Lum was appointed to the board at International Enterprise Singapore.[12]

In 2014 she was appointed the board of Singapore Technologies Engineering (ST Engineering). In 2018, Lum resigned from this position citing business commitments as her reason for resignation.[13]

In May 2018, Hyflux applied to the Singapore High Court for a 30-day protection against creditor claims to allow the company time to reorganize its liabilities.[14] Following this voluntary filing, Lum announced a series of three townhall meetings with the company's 50,000 plus retail shareholders.[15] In July, Lum announced that efforts would be made to “ensure that the company stays viable.” Lum also noted that Hyflux had total debt of $1.17 billion.[16]

In December 2022, it was reported that Hyflux was claiming damages exceeding S$690.6 million from Lum in a civil law suit alleging negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.[17]

Criminal Charges[edit]

On 17 November 2022, Lum, ex-CFO Cho Wee Peng and four other former board members were charged with violations of Singapore's Securities and Futures Act.[18] On 5 May 2023, Singapore's State Court added three additional charges against Lum, citing violations of the Companies Act related to an allegation that she failed to exercise diligence in the discharge of her duties as a director. Lum faces a potential jail term of up to two years, a maximum fine of S$150,000, or both.[19]


  1. ^ a b Lloyd-Smith, David (5 April 2004), "The Moisture Merchant: Dealing in Liquid Assets", Time Magazine, retrieved 15 January 2008
  2. ^ a b c Lum, Olivia (4 June 2007), "Toilet was just a squat pan; Group CEO and president of Hyflux Olivia Lum recounts a childhood of extreme poverty", The Electric New Paper, Singapore, archived from the original on 23 December 2007, retrieved 15 January 2008
  3. ^ a b Zhang, Lihong (6 October 2005), "新加坡"水之女皇"林爱莲 幽默随和的美丽女人/Singapore's 'Queen of Water' Olivia Lum - a humorous, amiable beauty", Xinhua News (in Chinese), archived from the original on 4 December 2007, retrieved 15 January 2008
  4. ^ "SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS THAT TRANSFORM LIVES" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 July 2017. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  5. ^ "Former HR manager of Hyflux subsidiary Hydrochem charged with corruption". CNA. Retrieved 27 January 2023.
  6. ^ Pek, Tiong Gee (2 September 2021). "Hyflux: Down the slippery slope". The Edge.
  7. ^ "DSA 2005 LUM Ooi Lin Olivia". science.nus.edu.sg. Archived from the original on 16 March 2017.
  8. ^ "Lum Ooi Lin "Olivia"". Bloomberg News.
  9. ^ Subramaniam, Shivaranjani (22 June 2009), "Olivia Lum", Singapore Infopedia, National Library of Singapore, archived from the original on 23 July 2009, retrieved 21 July 2009
  10. ^ Lee, Jamie (9 September 2008), "Hyflux chief to leave SGX board", Business Times, Singapore
  11. ^ "Olivia Lum is first woman to win Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur Of The Year Award". Singapore Business Review. 6 June 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2023.
  12. ^ "Hyflux's Olivia Lum appointed to IE Singapore board". 30 April 2013.
  13. ^ CHIA, YAN MIN (22 March 2018). "Hyflux's Olivia Lum to retire from ST Engineering board due to business commitments".
  14. ^ Hwee, Tan Hwee (23 May 2018). "Hyflux seeks court protection to reorganise debt pile". The Straits Times.
  15. ^ "Hyflux founder-CEO Olivia Lum to attend townhall meetings with shareholders next month - Channel NewsAsia". Archived from the original on 1 August 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  16. ^ "CEO Olivia Lum says Hyflux has total debt of $2.95b and is in talks with 8 bidders for Tuaspring plant". The Straits Times. 19 July 2018.
  17. ^ "Hyflux sues Olivia Lum for more than S$690 million over alleged negligence, fiduciary duty breach". The Business Times. 22 December 2022.
  18. ^ Leong, Grace (17 November 2022). "Ex-Hyflux CEO Olivia Lum, ex-CFO and four others charged with violations of Securities and Futures Act". www.straitstimes.com. Retrieved 4 May 2023.
  19. ^ Leong, Grace (5 May 2023). "Hyflux founder Olivia Lum faces 3 more charges, independent director Lee Joo Hai arrested and charged". www.straitstimes.com. Retrieved 4 May 2023.

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