Malaysia's Naluri is to rethink its investments in three Asian airlines and a helicopter operator after shareholders approved the sale of its 29.09% stake in Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to the government.

Loss-making Naluri also owns 40% of Cambodian national carrier Royal Air Cambodge, 18%of Malaysian regional Pelangi Air and 49%of grounded Air Maldives. It also owns all of helicopter operator MHS Aviation. Tajudin Ramli, chairman of Naluri and MAS, says Naluri is to re-examine its air transport investments. "We have to study its implications a bit more," Tajudin says of the MAS deal.

The 1.792 billion ringgit ($472 million) sale of 224 million shares was approved at a 10 February board meeting and is expected to be completed by 23 February. The eight ringgit per share purchase price represented a premium of 117% over the stock's closing price on the day before the sale was announced, sparking accusations from opposition politicians and industry analysts that it amounted to a "bail-out" for Tajudin, a personal friend of prime minister Mahathir Mohammed.

Naluri says proceeds will be used to repay outstanding debts and explore new business prospects in what Tajudin describes as "fast-growing industries". Naluri now claims it will return to profit this year after four years in the red.

The MAS purchase leaves the Malaysian Ministry of Finance with a 49.19% stake in the flag carrier, although the government is believed to hold a further 20% or more through other investment arms. MAS itself has debts of about $2.5 billion, and has posted losses for three years running, with a further loss for the financial year ending 31 March anticipated.

Source: Flight International