EPF ceases to be AirAsia’s substantial shareholder

By AFIQ AZIZ / Pic By BLOOMBERG

THE Employees Provident Fund (EPF) has ceased to be a substantial shareholder of AirAsia Group Bhd two weeks after the low-cost carrier (LCC) top executives were alleged of corruption involving Airbus SE.

In a filing to Bursa Malaysia on Tuesday, the frill-free airline group stated that the EPF disposed of some 18.56 million shares on Feb 6, 2020, at an undisclosed price, bringing down its interest to less than 5%.

EPF’s stake in AirAsia declined to 5.33% prior to this disposal after paring down its shareholding since mid-December.

Following the coronavirus outbreak and the AirAsia-Airbus corruption scandal in early February, AirAsia and AirAsia X Bhd’s shares sold down heavily.

AirAsia’s founders — chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun and group CEO Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes — have denied the US$50 million (RM207 million) corruption allegations.

They claimed that the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) 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.

After about four years of investigation, the SFO fined Airbus US$4 billion as settlement for various bribery allegations that the planemaker is involved in.

The allegations include the pumping of some US$50 million into the now defunct Caterham Formula 1 racing team, owned by the two AirAsia executives.

Fernandes, however, said the money was a branding exercise involving AirAsia carrier brand, General Electric Co and Airbus, and was not a money-making venture.

Relevant authorities including Securities Commission Malaysia, Malaysian Aviation Commission and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission have already launched investigations on the allegations.

Both Fernandes and Kamarudin have vacated their positions for a period of two months to give way for a smooth investigation process, pledging to not involve in any decision-making of the airline.

AirAsia ferries some 50 million people a year and employs some 20,000 workers globally.

The LCC’s shares have nosedived by 26.1% since the selldown that started on Jan 23. During the period, RM1.4 billion of its market capitalisation was wiped off.