by FARA AISYAH/ pic by BLOOMBERG
AIRASIA Group Bhd’s substantial shareholder, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) has disposed of 14.4 million shares in the low-cost carrier (LCC) on Feb 3 after the allegations of corruption involving its founders were made public.
In an exchange filing yesterday, AirAsia stated that the deal was done in two separate transactions on Monday. Following the disposal of direct interest in AirAsia, EPF now owns 192.87 million shares or a 5.77% stake in the airline company.
The selling had continued since last week, when the fund made several transactions with a total amount of 11.2 million of AirAsia’s shares sold.
EPF has been disposing of shares in AirAsia before the bribery allegations were reported.
On Monday, AirAsia was hit by allegations that its chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun and group CEO Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes received a US$50 million (RM206.00 million) bribe from aircraft manufacturer Airbus SE, but both have denied all allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct.
In a statement on Tuesday, both said the UK Serious Fraud Office did not approach either of them over the four-year investigation period involving Airbus, and said this was a clear violation of the fundamental legal principle of fairness and access to justice.
On Monday, the LCC’s share price fell 10.15% and lost RM440 million in market capitalisation.
However, the counter closed seven sen or 6.03% higher at RM1.23 yesterday.
The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) previously reported that AirAsia could fall out of the race to take over the ailing Malaysia Airlines Bhd as the company battles bribery allegations against its top executives.
The company has been reported as among the four contenders vying for the ownership of the national airline, but the recent bribery revelation could put the proposal in tatters.
A source told the paper that AirAsia’s proposal may not take off if the company is dogged by the scandal.
The management of Khazanah Nasional Bhd may shelve it altogether, said the source familiar with the matter.
“From the management’s (Khazanah) point of view, even if Air-Asia still wants to engage on its proposal, the recent developments would be too risky for them to continue,” the source told TMR.
It is believed that the state-owned sovereign fund had favoured AirAsia’s bid although it had not openly revealed its position.
The government said the proposals had fallen short of its evaluation.
“It is illogical for Khazanah to still consider AirAsia as its potential partner at this point of time,” said the source who requested anonymity.