Malaysia Airlines: State fund proposes takeover

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The two major tragedies have raised concerns about the future of the airline

Malaysia's state investment firm Khazanah Nasional has proposed a "complete overhaul" of troubled national carrier Malaysia Airlines.

Khazanah wants to buy the shares it does not already own in Malaysia Airlines and delist the carrier.

The airline has been hurt by two major tragedies - the crash of flight MH17 in Ukraine and disappearance of flight MH370 - in recent months.

The two incidents have triggered concerns about the airline's future.

Khazanah, which currently owns 69.4% of the airline, has offered to pay 0.27 ringgit per share for the remaining stock, a 12.5% premium to the closing price on Thursday.

Trading in shares in Malaysia Airlines was suspended on Friday, ahead of the announcement.

Media caption,
Some analysts believe Malaysia Airlines could be heading to its worst quarter ever, as Ali Moore reports

August deadline

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he agreed with the state fund's decision.

A statement from his office says: "This is the first step needed to return our national carrier to profitability. It is a step I wholeheartedly support."

The prime minister added that the government and Khazanah are in the "final stages of completing a comprehensive and holistic restructuring plan."

The statement goes on to say: "With due process and following the relevant approvals, we expect that a detailed plan will be announced before the end of August."

Growing concerns

The airlines' flight MH370 went missing on 8 March while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, leading to a massive search and rescue operation that is still continuing and may cost millions of dollars.

The majority of the passengers on board that flight were from China.

The crisis led to a high number of cancellations and reputational damage to the carrier, including a 60% drop in sales from China.

The carrier suffered another major setback in July after all 298 people on board flight MH17 died as the plane was brought down in eastern Ukraine, close to the border with Russia.

The company has been losing money for many years and its market value has fallen by more than 40% in the past nine months.

In May, it reported that its net loss had widened by 59% to 443m ringgit ($138m; £82m) in the January-to-March period.

That marked that the fifth straight quarter of losses for the airline.

'Sensible' move

Khazanah, which has invested more than $1bn into the airline in recent years, had previously indicated that a major restructuring was on the cards.

On Friday, the state fund said it would look at restructuring all aspects of the airline's operations including its business model, finances and human capital.

"Nothing less will be required in order to revive our national airline to be profitable as a commercial entity and to serve its function as a critical national development entity," the fund said in a statement.

Analysts welcomed the move, but stressed that it was only the start of the restructuring process.

"This is the sensible way forward given that massive surgery is required," said Christopher Wong, a senior investment manager at Aberdeen Asset Management Asia.

Shukor Yusof, founder of aviation research firm Endau Analytics, said the airline needed to address fundamental problems, such as its debts, unprofitable routes, and over-manning.

"I'm sceptical of the success of it because I'm not sure it will address the root problems of the airline,'' he said.