Utusan to delist today after 25 years

by MARK RAO/ pic by ARIF KARTONO

UTUSAN Melayu (M) Bhd will cease to be a publicly-traded company today after the company did not file an appeal against the suspension and subsequent delisting of its shares from the local bourse.

The loss-making media group, which prints the country’s oldest Malay newspaper, was listed on the then Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange in 1994.

The company was served a notice by Bursa Malaysia Securities Bhd on Aug 20 of the share trading suspension and delisting.

Utusan, in a statement to market operator, said the company has not made an appeal against the delisting of its securities and that the securities will be delisted on Aug 30, 2019.

This comes after the loss-making media group failed to regularise its financial condition more than a year after slipping into Practice Note 17 (PN17) status after defaulting on loans from two local lenders.

The company raked up RM12.09 million in net losses for the first half of its fiscal year ending Dec 31, 2019 (FY19).

It also failed to woo new investors to revive the business due to its large liabilities, estimated at RM393.46 million. The company’s assets are valued at RM293.15 million.

Its shares last traded at a record low of six sen before they were suspended on Wednesday this week — a far cry from its peak of RM6.90 back in March 2000, according to Bloomberg data.

Utusan is among the victims of the industry-wide declines in newspaper circulation and advertising revenues.

The move to digital platforms failed to uplift its income. The media group registered consecutive full-year net losses from FY12 to FY18, amounting to total losses of RM394.95 million over seven years. Its net loss came in at RM184.09 million in FY18.

In August last year, Utusan slipped into PN17 status after defaulting on RM1.18 million in repayments owed to two banks, namely Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd and Maybank Islamic Bhd.

The company initiated a voluntary separation scheme in December last year, slashing 700 positions. The exercise reduced its staff to 835 employees. Property disposals and equity divestments were undertaken to raise cash as well.

Utusan also raised the cover price of its newspapers recently after talks of a possible situation where its publications would be shuttered.

The price for Utusan Malaysia was thus increased from RM1.50 to RM2 per copy, while Kosmo! was raised from RM1 to RM1.50 per copy. The changes were effective on Aug 23 and Aug 25 this year respectively.

Utusan owns and operates the newspapers’ respective weekly editions — Mingguan Malaysia and Kosmo! Ahad — as well, besides publishing the Mastika, Saji, Infiniti and Wanita magazines.

Utusan Malaysia was first published as Utusan Melayu in Jawi back in 1939 in Singapore, and was founded by Yusof Ishak — who later became the first president of Singapore — and Abdul Rahim Kajai, the “Father of Malay Journalism”.