KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional invested some RM80 million (S$27 million) or US$20 million in a failed online lingerie business, Malaysia's Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali told Parliament on Wednesday (Aug 1).
"Khazanah had invested in the online business, involving bras and lingerie. The business eventually failed and the losses had to be written off," he said during his ministerial reply on the motion of thanks of the royal address in the Lower House.
He was responding to a question by former premier Najib Razak, an MP from Pahang, who asked how Khazanah had deviated from its agenda.
Mr Azmin did not give further details on the investment or when this happened.
The minister also said Khazanah lost RM3 billion in a banking venture, MalayMail news site quoted him as saying.
“There was also an investment via a private equity to take over a bank. But as a result, an investment of RM3 billion had to be written off,” Mr Azmin said.
Earlier, Datuk Seri Azmin said Khazanah had diverted from its role by divesting its shares in strategic assets.
Mr Azmin, the minister in charge of the sovereign fund, said a revamp of Khazanah was needed to ensure that it returns to its original aim of owning and safeguarding national assets on behalf of all Malaysians.
He gave an assurance to lawmakers that the Pakatan Harapan government would continue to make the bumiputra (indigenous Malaysians) agenda its priority.
"The bumiputra agenda will remain our main priority without alienating the needs of the other communities," he said.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Mr Azmin were on Monday named as among five new directors of Khazanah's board, after its previous board stepped down.
Meanwhile, MP Khairy Jamaluddin from the opposition Umno party defended the legacy of the Kahazanah's former chief Azman Mokhtar, saying he raised the asset value of the fund and "not the smaller losses that have been highlighted to smear his tenure and reputation".
Mr Khairy said in a statement that the Mahathir government’s strategy has been to focus on "the few losses" during Tan Sri Azman’s tenure from the loss-making investment in UBS to a company selling lingerie online.
"This is designed to embarrass and deflect from the real numbers that we should be concerned with: Khazanah’s realisable asset value grew from RM 65 billion in 2004 to RM157 billion at the end of 2017," Mr Khairy said.
"Its net worth adjusted (which takes out liabilities and dividends paid to the Government) was RM47 billion in 2004. At the end of last year it was RM115.6 billion. That is Azman’s legacy."