Group eyeing Malaysia Airlines gives job pledge

PETALING JAYA • Former AirAsia chairman Pahamin Ab Rajab and his five partners who are keen to take over Malaysia Airlines have given their assurance that there will be no job cuts should the government accept their plan to turn around the ailing airline.

Despite many turnarounds, the national carrier has failed to be profitable and now needs more money to be sustainable.

In March, the Malaysian government made clear that it cannot fund the airline and is considering either shutting it down or selling a stake to an investor.

The Pahamin-led group met Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad this week to express interest in helping to turn the airline around. The Prime Minister is the chairman of Khazanah, the airline's sole shareholder.

Mr Pahamin told StarBiz on Thursday that the group was looking at taking a 49 per cent stake in the airline. He said the group's offer through the vehicle, Najah Air Sdn Bhd, has proof of funding. It will need to conduct a three-month due diligence before unveiling its full turnaround plan for the airline.

"We have assured the Prime Minister that we will not sack anybody at Malaysia Airlines. We will also not ask for financial support from Khazanah or the government. We will ask to have the rights to manage without interference from the government," he said.

"The airline will have the same national branding and will not change its name," he added.

Tun Dr Mahathir had said last week that the government was willing to sell the airline, but its identity as the country's national carrier must be retained.

Mr Pahamin's proposal is one of several under consideration. Khazanah has its own turnaround plan and that could involve a stake sale. Other proposals said to be on the table include one from some former employees of Khazanah and another from financial advisory firm Jentayu Danaraksa.

Mr Pahamin was previously the director-general of the road transport department and was non-executive chairman of AirAsia Berhad for seven years from 2001 to 2008.

Given his ties with AirAsia, the buzz in the marketplace is whether he is representing AirAsia group chief executive Tony Fernandes to take over Malaysia Airlines. This is despite the fact that Mr Fernandes had earlier denied any interest in taking over the airline.

Mr Pahamin said, however, that Mr Fernandes was not involved in the proposal. "He will be my competitor if we get to turn around Malaysia Airlines," he said.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2019, with the headline 'Group eyeing Malaysia Airlines gives job pledge'. Print Edition | Subscribe