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The Transform Guys: Lehigh alum, partners reinvent companies

Wai San Loke ’89 is managing director of Novo Tellus Capital Partners, a “transformation team” that buys distressed technology companies and makes them profitable.

“We usually take control of these companies and try to reinvent them,” Loke recently told The Business Times in an interview. “We are hands-on investors and usually our transformation takes many years.”

Loke’s most recent success story is AEM Holdings, a technology company based in Singapore. He joined AEM in 2011 as the company’s chairman.

The multi-million-dollar business designs and manufactures high-density semiconductor “test handlers” that are used for high-volume back-end testing of computer chips. In its second quarter of 2017, AEM's revenue was 264% higher than its earnings just one year ago.

A tenet of Tellus Capital Partners is that an organization cannot downsize its way to prosperity. “There's no way you can build a company by cutting cost if you don't have anything in the pipeline,” Loke explained. “You can sustain it for one or two years and, after that, you are irrelevant because you have not innovated -- you have not done anything that the market demands or has any cutting-edge value, especially in technology and industrials.”

Loke earned a bachelor’s in electrical engineering at Lehigh University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He has held positions as a research and development engineer and as a technology investor and worked in both the U.S. and Singapore. He co-founded Novo Tellus Capital Partners in 2010.

-Mary Anne Lynch

December 5, 2017

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