MAB open to minority stake sale

The company is open to the potential idea of a foreign carrier buying a strategic stake in MAB

By P PREM KUMAR / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

TOULOUSE • Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) has not dismissed the possibility of a stake sale to other airlines to boost the national carrier’s valuation prior from the proposed listing exercise.

Malaysia Airlines, which is undergoing a multi-year restructuring to turnaround the national carrier’s balance sheet, plans to return as a public company in two years.

CEO Peter Bellew said MAB is open to the potential idea of a foreign carrier acquiring a strategic stake in Malaysia Airlines and become a strategic partner.

He said the idea of a foreign carrier having a stake would boost MAB’s value as the national carrier seeks to be listed on Bursa Malaysia in 2019.

“Listing is not the only opportunities for us out there, but also trade investment which can generally lifts the overall value of the company,” he said to local journalists during a media visit to Airbus A350 assembly in Toulouse, France, yesterday.

Bellew said such idea of other carriers partnering another airline via a stake ownership is a strategic move.

“Other airlines can take a portion in another airline. That is the trend that the industry is going through, which also make lots of sense.”

Bellew cited the 10% stake sale in Air France-KLM SA to Delta Air Lines Inc and China Eastern Airlines Corp Ltd, as an example of the current industrial trend.

A foreign partner would also pave the way for other commercial cooperations, namely joint purchasing and products range, he said.

“A lot of things that we do in the future has to be with smart partnerships,” he said.

But, Bellew stressed no ongoing discussions with foreign airlines are taking place over the possibility of a stake sale in the national carrier.

He said the one world alliance of which MAB is a member, has contributed to the increased interest on the airline.

“We have established good relationships with the oneworld members, which can increase the value overall.”

Bellew said MAB stands a strong chance to rope in a foreign partner if it decides to commence such stake sale.

“Many airlines have no partners from the South-East Asian region,” he said.

“I think people’s mindset have to change about Malaysia Airlines from the negative stories to the great opportunities out there with us.”

The now defunct Malaysian Airline System Bhd (MAS) and low-cost carrier AirAsia Bhd had collaborated in a share swap deal in 2012, brokered by Khazanah Nasional Bhd.

The short-lived pact had seen Tune Air Sdn Bhd, the parent company of AirAsia, exchanging 10% of AirAsia shares for 20.5% of MAS stocks with state-owned Khazanah.

AirAsia founders Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun were appointed to MAS’ board of directors, to help the then financially-bleeding company.

The share swap deal was later reversed due to the strong opposition from various parties especially unions representing over 20,000 MAS employees.

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