PM: Khazanah to decide on MAB stake

pic by TMR

THERE are many interested parties eyeing the stake in flag carrier Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB), but the final decision remains in the hands of Khazanah Nasional Bhd, said Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“There are many contenders for MAB, including locals (companies), but it’s up to Khazanah to decide,” Dr Mahathir, who is also Khazanah’s chairman, told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

Khazanah owns 100% of MAB after buying out minority shareholders and delisting the company in the 2014 turnaround effort.

A number of big names have been floated such as industry alliance Japan Airlines Co Ltd (JAL).

When asked whether any discussions were held with JAL recently, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I haven’t spoken to them.”

In May, JAL signed a memorandum of understanding with MAB to cooperate on flights between Malaysia and Japan.

MAB said at the time that the two carriers were “exploring collaboration in other operational areas such as cargo and jointly developing tourism in both the Japanese and Malaysian markets”.

Reuters recently reported JAL president Yuji Akasaka expressing his interest in further talks, possibly on an investment, but denied having immediate plans. He told reporters that JAL faced similar difficulties to MAB in the past — and recovered.

JAL filed for bankruptcy in 2010, bloated with large jets and unprofitable routes.

A government-supported restructuring process then put the company back on its feet; last year, following which JAL logged a ¥150.8 billion (RM5.88 billion) net profit.

The carrier had had over RM24 billion injected into the company since 2001. Besides a few years of profit, the carrier continued to bleed. Khazanah had to provide the billions spent on MAB.

In July, Khazanah confirmed it hired US-based investment bank Morgan Stanley as an advisor to explore possible options to turn around the loss-making airline, including a stake sale.

The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) had recently reported that Najah Air Sdn Bhd is one of the companies that were named as possible candidates to take over the national carrier.

TMR also reported that Khazanah is pushing for a merger between MAB and its loss-making low-cost counterpart AirAsia X Bhd.

Separately, Dr Mahathir also said it is entirely up to Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) to decide whether it wants to take part in Saudi Arabian Oil Co’s (Saudi Aramco) initial public offering (IPO).

“Not for me (to decide),” Dr Mahathir said in response to a question whether the government is keen for Petronas to participate in Saudi Aramco’s IPO.