MAB attracts foreign, local suitors, says Dr Mahathir

MAB is financially weak with many underutilised aircraft

Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL 

The government has received interests from local and international companies wanting to acquire loss-making Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB), said Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture).

Dr Mahathir said the government is currently studying various proposals to recover the national flag carrier, which has been draining the financials of sole shareholder Khazanah Nasional Bhd since privatisation in 2014.

Stake disposal, shutting down and management overhaul are among the proposals being studied currently, he told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

“There are interested parties to buy MAB, so we did not put aside that idea. There are local and overseas parties who are interested,” he said.

“We will consider whether to change the airline’s management, to scale down or to sell it.”

Dr Mahathir said MAB is financially weak with many underutilised aircraft, despite hiring two foreign CEOs to turn around the airline.

“I love MAS, I want MAS to be a national airline, but seems like we cannot afford it,” he added, referring to the carrier’s former acronym.

After MAB was taken private by Khazanah in 2014, Christoph Mueller and Peter Bellew were given the opportunity to serve as the airline’s CEO in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Both Mueller and Bellew left the airline before the expiry of their respective contracts.

MAB has been dogged by years of mismanagement and plain bad luck, struggling with losses since 1998 which resulted in government bailouts amounting to billions of ringgit.

Khazanah undertook a RM6 billion restructuring plan to turn MAB profitable by 2017.

However, the carrier reported a RM812.11 million loss after tax (LBT) that year and remained in the red in 2018.

It further contributed to approximately half of Khazanah’s RM7.3 billion impairments in 2018, up from the RM5 billion incurred in 2017, and resulted in the sovereign state fund posting a RM6.27 billion LBT that year.