Najib denies hiding Khazanah, MAB malaises

By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN & DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By BERNAMA

Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak has denied concealing any irregularities in Khazanah Nasional Bhd and its loss-making subsidiary Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) throughout his 10-year term as prime minister (PM) and chairman of the state wealth fund.

He said Khazanah was on a profitable route between 2009 and 2018, with annual profits of RM3 billion to RM4 billion a year.

The Pekan MP also claimed that Khazanah’s six-year turn-around plan for MAB “was working”, although it may need a bit more time to recover.

“It would definitely be a wrong move. MAB is our pride and joy. MAB must continue as our national airline and it must have a turnaround plan,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

“When I was chairman of Khazanah, our turnaround plan was working. It needed a bit more time — therefore, there should be no reason why MAB should be sold off or closed down,” he added.

Earlier yesterday, PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia is weighing all options including the possibility of shutting down or selling MAB.

Najib, however, said the new government should go back to the original turnaround plan and move from there.

“We should go back to that plan. We were confident when I was in office. We were confident that we could do a turnaround.

“We had a major exercise, a very humane voluntary separation scheme, and we pruned down the number of employees in MAB.

“We were about to take off with some of the units that were not profitable, but I think they were also affected by the downturn in the number of tourist arrivals into Malaysia, strictly from China,” he further said.

Khazanah announced its first pretax loss in a decade, amounting to RM6.27 billion in its annual review last week.

The fund attributed last year’s losses on global market challenges, with half of its impairments due to MAB.

MAB has long dragged the performance of the state-owned fund, which is its sole shareholder.

The carrier’s cumulative RM8.4 billion loss registered between 2001 and 2014 had prompted Khazanah to introduce a RM6 billion recovery plan to put the company back into profitability.

The sovereign wealth fund’s restructuring exercise included plans for MAB to return to profit by 2017 and relist between 2017 and 2019.

However, a weak ringgit and escalating jet fuel costs have forced the carrier to miss two profitability deadlines.

Khazanah has since tasked the airline to produce a strategic plan on how it can deliver better returns.

Its MD Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan said MAB’s review has to address the reality of the competitive aviation industry today.