Malaysia Helicopters Services (MHS) has ended months of speculation by finally disposing of its controlling interests in Aerospace Industries of Malaysia (AIM) and its military aircraft maintenance company Airod.

Local sewage company PJS Industries has paid MHSRgt33 million ($13 million) to acquire its 66.7% stake in AIM and 19% holding in Airod. A further 34% share in Airod, which is controlled indirectly by MHS through AIM, also passes to PJS.

According to local sources, PJS owner Ahmad Johan wants to fulfill the Malaysian Government's long held, but so far unfilled, aim to develop an aerospace manufacturing capability for Airod. The loss-making maintenance facility is heavily dependent on servicing Lockheed Martin C-130 and helicopters for the Malaysian military.

The sale comes less than 15 months after MHS chairman and 32% owner of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), Tajudin Ramli, bought Lockheed Aircraft Services' remaining 19% interest in the 11-year-old joint venture. Through AIM, it was intended to develop Airod as part of a national drive to develop an aerospace industry.

Instead, Tajudin has concentrated on restructuring MAS' engineering division into a separate Aerotechnology subsidiary. Rather than rationalising the maintenance and overhaul activities of Airod and MAS, the two companies have at times found themselves competing with each other for third-party Boeing 737 work.

Meanwhile, the MAS chairman is strongly denying persistent market rumours that he intends to divest the stake he holds in the national airline.

Speculation has been fuelled by concerns over the carrier's high level of debt, rising oil prices, falling yields and strong competition, which have combined to drive the airline's share price down more than 31% since March.

Malaysia's new national airline, Air Asia, made its inaugural flight on 18 November, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Pattaya, Thailand. AirAsia is operating a single 737-300 on lease from General Electric Capital, and will receive a second aircraft in February.

In addition to a thrice-weekly charter to Pattaya, the airline will initially operate six flights a week to Kota Kinabalu and Taipei.

Source: Flight International