Malaysia Airlines (MAS)shareholder Naluri has revealed that it is negotiating to sell shares in the airline to the Malaysian Government. At the same time, Kuala Lumpur has admitted that talks have been held with Australia's Qantas, which is rumoured to be keen to recruit MAS for oneworld.

Naluri, which owns 29.1% of MAS, is restructuring a 1 billion ringgit ($263 million) debt by disposing of assets. It says that it is in "initial discussion with the Government in respect of its investment", stressing that no decisions have yet been made. The announcement comes at a time of continued speculation in the state-run Malaysian media about possible investment from Qantas. Both airlines initially denied the rumours, but the Government now says talks have been held.

Qantas routes several European services via Singapore, despite the fact that the hub's dominant carrier, Singapore Airlines, is now a Star Alliance member. The recruitment of MAS, combined with the re-routing of some existing services, would secure many more Southeast Asian connections for oneworld via Kuala Lumpur Airport.

MAS recently won Government approval to increase its foreign share ownership from 30% to 45%. 16.5% of the carrier is in foreign hands, Brunei Investment Agency being the biggest single shareholder, with 9.1%.

Qantas' share price has meanwhile improved by 26% over the past four weeks, with some of the gain linked to the impending launch of the carrier's e-commerce strategy. Analysts at Credit Suisse First Boston believe the initiative could become the dominant portal in Australia.

Source: Flight International