It was just a dinner.  Or was it?

The year was 2001. Two friends, Lim Jit Poh and Kua Hong Pak, met up for some sushi and sake at Unkai, a Japanese restaurant at the now-defunct ANA hotel in Nassim Hill. The meeting was kept a secret as it was more than casual. Little did anyone know that a simple dinner was the birth of one of the largest land transport conglomerates in the world.

So, who are Lim and Kua? Back then, Lim was the chairman of Comfort Group. It was rich in cash reserves and had the largest taxi network in Singapore with 11,340 vehicles under the Comfort and Yellow Top brands. Lim foresaw limitations in the local taxi market and was keen to expand overseas for future growth.

Meanwhile, Kua was a director of DelGro. It owned SBS Transit, the leading bus operator in Singapore with 2,872 …