Close down MAS and overhaul Khazanah, says veteran newsman

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(September 9):  A veteran journalist today suggested that Malaysia's sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd should be restructured while Malaysia Airlines (MAS) should be closed down.

In his latest blog posting, Datuk A. Kadir Jasin questioned Khazanah's ability to manage Malaysia Airlines and revive the fortunes of the ailing national carrier.

Kadir wrote that the recent proposed privatisation of Malaysia Airlines has resulted in Khazanah having to come up with RM6 billion.

"Prior to this, Khazanah has sunk RM7 billion into Malaysia Airlines which came to naught as various restructurings failed to turn the company around."

The former New Straits Times editor-in-chief in light of previous overhauls, Malaysia Airlines was still bleeding losses, raking up RM 8.4 billion from 2001 to 2014. This raised questions over Khazanah's ability in reviving the national carrier.

"A month ago, Putrajaya announced that Malaysia Airlines would be privatised and restructured.

"Since then, Khazanah has entered the bond market in order to raise RM3.1 billion. It will not be surprising if more money has to be borrowed or assets sold.

"I am sorry to say this… but for me, Malaysia Airlines has become a bottomless pit which should just be buried.

"It is Khazanah which ought to be restructured," Kadir wrote, adding that Malaysians were also shouldering the burden of this “mega debt”.

The twin losses of flight MH370 and MH17, all within a span of four months, dealt a major blow to the struggling national carrier.

MH370 has yet to be found, after departing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8 and was bound for Beijing with 12 crew member and 227 passengers. MH17 was shot down on July 17 while flying over Ukraine, killing all 15 crew members and 283 passengers.

The Straits Times Asia Report today said that although Khazanah's ambitious reforms of Malaysia Airlines sounded impressive, more was needed.

"There is a sense of deja vu when it was announced that a new holding company would be set up to house the delisted Malaysia Airlines.

"A similar plan had been introduced back in 2002 when a Khazanah-owned holding company had been set up, Penerbangan Malaysia Berhad (PMB)."

"RM5 billion of MAS assets and RM7 billion of debt had been transferred to PMB, which then leased aircraft back to MAS."

The report said initially, it appeared to work but it all went downhill. Since the government took over MAS in 2001, the airline has bled RM8.4 billion, including RM2.8 billion in losses by PMB.