Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional will undertake a major review of Malaysia Airlines' (MAS) business and subsequently restructure the carrier.
In its statement to Bursa Malaysia regarding its decision to take the carrier private, Khazanah says that it plans to “undertake a comprehensive review and restructuring of MAS.”
Khazanah feels that privatising the carrier gives it greater flexibility for a restructuring, and will give it the freedom to put in place the necessary funding “for the next few years to sustain its operations and address its current high level of gearing”.
“Accordingly, Khazanah is offering the entitled shareholders an opportunity to exit at a premium to the prevailing market price of MAS shares, so as not to subject them to the associated risks and uncertainties relating to the execution of the restructuring of the company.”
Khazanah adds that the privatisation is contingent upon approval of the carrier’s shareholders, who will vote on the measure at an extraordinary general meeting. Other approvals may also be required, such as from creditors and “other relevant authorities, it adds.
The Khazanah statement provides little in specific about its plans for MAS, but comes after weeks of media speculation that the sovereign wealth fund would step in. Calls for a privatisation have become increasingly strident of late, because this will allow a restructuring away from the eyes of short-term investors. This could include spinning off its MRO arm, MAS Aerospace Engineering, and also MASkargo in order to give the airline's management more focus on the day-to-day running of the core airline business.
Khazhanah’s privatisation announcement caps months of dismal news relating to Malaysia’s flag carrier, including two of the greatest air disasters in aviation history: the mysterious disappearance of flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean on 8 March, and the shoot down of MH17 over Eastern Ukraine on 17 July. The two disasters saw 525 passengers and crew perish aboard MAS operated aircraft within the space of three months.
Moreover, the carrier suffered an operating loss of MYR439 million ($136 million) for its fiscal first quarter ended 31 March.