Government lists 2 conditions for MAB investors

Putrajaya is willing to give up some shareholdings as long as the airline’s identity remains and for the staff to keep their jobs

pic by HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

THE government is willing to give up its majority stake in Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) provided that the government’s role will be preserved and the airline’s identity retained.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also said any move involving the national carrier will not jeopardise the jobs of MAB staff.

“Well, the government does not want to be bailing out MAB so many times, so we are studying all the proposals, some concrete, some merely verbal ones,” he told reporters in the Parliament lobby yesterday.

“We must preserve some government roles, as a government or as a shareholder,” he said.

“The main thing is to preserve Malaysia Airlines (MAS) as a national identity and secondly, we have to make sure that no proposals involves the sacking of staff.”

Dr Mahathir said the government will study all proposals to ensure the airline will be in safe hands.

“We have changed the management of the airline many times. Everyone promises they will turn around the airline but in the end, they all fail.

“This time, we don’t want to give without really studying the capability of the people who may want to takeover the airline,” he said.

Commenting on a possible partnership with Singapore Airlines (SIA), the 94-year-old leader said he is open to any proposals, be it from the neighbouring country.

“At this point, if it involves SIA, we will also consider,” said Dr Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir told the Dewan Rakyat that the government has yet to decide whether to sell, collaborate with any company or participate in the airline’s recovery.

“We cannot sell the company, so much so that the name is completely removed,” he said in response to a question from Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed (Pakatan Harapan-Jeli) who asked about the government’s plan to improve MAB’s performance.

He said the government has received four offers from parties who are willing to take over and manage MAB.

Sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd, MAB’s sole shareholder, demanded the national carrier to come up with a strategic plan earlier this year, after the fund injected RM6 billion as part of the company’s turnaround plan.

Khazanah took over MAB in 2014, making it the sole shareholder even though the country’s state fund already held 70% of the airline’s equity interest.

To date, the government has spent about RM25 billion to turn MAB around since 2001, starting with Widespread Asset Unbundling led by the consultancy Bina Fikir.

Some 6,000 low-level and mid-level staff at MAS were terminated from their jobs in 2015.