More investors eyeing Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia not ruling out merger

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More investors eyeing Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia not ruling out merger
National carrier Malaysia Airlines Berhad has continued to draw interest from a few investor groups that are keen to explore options such as taking over the company, a news report has said.

Local financial weekly The Edgeclaimed that several groups have asked to meet with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who chairs Malaysia Airlines’ sole shareholder Khazanah Nasional, to share their plans to turnaround the ailing airline.

The Edge said AirAsia Group Bhd’s co-founder Datuk Pahamin Ab Rajabis leading the Najah Air Sdn Bhd, which was one of the first to have a meeting with Dr Mahathir over Malaysia Airlines.

The Edge said another investor group looking to acquire a stake in Malaysia Airlines is believed to have sought advice on a takeover bid from boutique advisory firm QuantePhi Sdn Bhd, which it noted was led by the airlines’ previous firm Malaysia Airline System Bhd’s (MAS) deputy group CEO Mohammed Rashdan Yusof.

According to The Edge, Jentayu Danaraksa Sdn Bhd which had in 2014 proposed to buy over the airline’s parent company prior to Khazanah Nasional’s decision to implement a five-year recovery plan, is believed to be planning a second try at taking over Malaysia Airlines.

The Edge also said The Weststar Group’s Tan Sri Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim is also said to be one of the interested investors, but said he did not provide any comments when contacted regarding this issue.

The paper noted that The Weststar Group has a unit providing offshore helicopter transport services, Weststar Aviation Services Sdn Bhd, and a unit providing services such as executive VIP charters, Weststar General Aviation Sdn Bhd.

This is on top of a group in March expressing confidence that it can help Malaysia Airlines return to being profitable within three years.

That group has corporate lawyer Shahril Lamin at its head, while its adviser is MAS former CEO Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman.

The Edge said a Khazanah Nasional spokesman said Malaysia Airlines’ holding company Malaysia Aviation Group Bhd (MAG) is working with Khazanah Nasional to make the airline financially sustainable.

“Ultimately, the airline’s future is a policy decision and a matter impacting various stakeholders, including MAG, Khazanah as shareholder and the government as decision-maker,” the spokesman was quoted as saying in an email.

When commenting on Malaysia Airlines, Dr Mahathir had in March said the government will “study whether to shut it down, sell it off, or refinance it”.

Last month, Dr Mahathir said the government would consider selling the national carrier “if there is a good offer”.

Local daily New Straits Times today quoted an unnamed senior AirAsia Bhd executive as saying that the company is not ruling out a merger with Malaysia Airlines.

“AirAsia feels that if the merger gives advantage to all parties, it should be explored,” the source was quoted saying, but noted that the problem may lie in internal intervention from Malaysia Airlines itself such as a failed share swap deal inked in August 2011.

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