Several bids have come in for Malaysia Airlines Bhd and the government and Khazanah Nasional Bhd are expected to have this as the next big decision to make. After all, the ailing national carrier did account for nearly half of Khazanah's losses in 2018. Meanwhile, two big Umno personalities were hauled to court to answer charges relating to "gifts" from Najib Razak, while the fallout from Pakatan's Kimanis by-election loss and the power struggles within the coalition seem never-ending.

A new route needed for Malaysia Airlines

How do you solve a problem like MAB?

Hot on the heels of a major decision concerning highway concessionaire PLUS Bhd, the government and sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd now has another big choice to make: what to do with Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB).

The ailing national carrier has been the subject of a number of takeover bids, apparently, with the first one reported a couple of days ago from the ‘now everybody can fly guys’, AirAsia.

AirAsia head honcho Tony Fernandes is believed to have met Khazanah MD Shahril Ridza Ridzuan last month to pitch the idea which would see MAB merged with AirAsia X, the long-haul arm of the low-cost airline company, to create a new company which would be listed on Bursa Malaysia. This airline would serve the premium domestic and international segment.

AirAsia is also adamant the government and Khazanah should not have golden shares in the new company, meaning it wants total control with no interference.  Shahril and the Khazanah management are reportedly all for the takeover, as estimates are that the merged company would generate RM1.4 billion annually – more than enough to cover operating costs. But the board has reportedly shot down the idea.

This isn’t the first time a merger of AirAsia X and MAB has been proposed – the same thing happened last year. Khazanah was also reported then to be all for the proposal, but some stakeholders were against it and it never went ahead.

But there are other bids Khazanah and the government can consider. As PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad mentioned, the gomen is looking for “strategic partners” for MAB and among those interested are Air France-KLM and Japan Airlines (JAL).

The former has proposed buying a 49% stake, while JAL is looking at 25%. This report claims the government is more in favour of foreign proposals as they’re more comprehensive and capitalised on Malaysia’s strategic location. Which means, the government and Khazanah have directly opposite views on the best way forward.

It really has been a battle for MAB over the years. Things came to a head in 2014 with the disappearance of Flight MH370 and the downing of Flight MH17, but really, Malaysia Airlines had been suffering for more than a decade before, with mismanagement, government interference and a shortage of professionals to run it all cited in this Associated Press report six years ago.

The double tragedies of MH370 and MH17 also led to the resignations of nearly 200 employees, leading to a shortage of cabin crew, compounding the situation further. When MAS became MAB under Khazanah, some 6,000 staff were retrenched despite the flight attendants union threatening a strike.

Nothing has helped and MAB has continued to record losses each year, making up almost half of Khazanah’s RM6.3 billion losses in 2018. So yeah, the sooner we can find the best buyer take it on, the better it would be for everybody.

Poetic justice

A who’s who of Umno leaders showed up in court yesterday to show support for former Felda chairman Shahrir Samad and Pontian MP Ahmad Maslan, who were both charged with failing to declare funds received from former PM Najib Razak to the Inland Revenue Board (IRB).

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, secretary-general Annuar Musa as well as other party leaders like Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, Noh Omar, Asyraf Wajdi and Lokman Adam were there, all smiles despite the fact that two of their people were facing charges. Well, what else could they do, right? After all, Zahid himself is facing a multitude of charges of his own. 

In one court, Shahrir claimed trial to not declaring RM1 million he received (allegedly, allegedly) from Jibby, with the court fixing bail at RM350,000. If convicted, he faces a fine of up to RM5 million (RM5 million for RM1 million. What a deal!) and/or up to five years’ jail time.

But the real “party” was in an adjacent court, where Ahmad was charged with not declaring RM2 million he received from the Jibster, as well as giving a false statement to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. He claimed trial to both.

Prior to entering the courtroom, however, Ahmad read out a four-line pantun and declared himself innocent and a “victim of tyranny”. Now, we’ll leave it to the courts to decide whether he is innocent or guilty, but we just gotta ask, did he study drama in university?

Meanwhile, bossku Najib Razak was in another court answering to charges related to SRC International, the one-time subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Bhd. During cross-examination, Jibby said he had approved a second RM2 billion loan to SRC from KWAP despite the fact that the first loan for a similar amount did not produce results.

And just why did he do that? Cos the sweetheart is an eternal optimist and was hoping the second loan would produce better results. 

Trial judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, meanwhile, will deliver his verdict today as to whether to allow Jibby’s application to allow an expert to determine the authenticity of his signature on 13 documents tendered as evidence. In December, Najib had told the court he was unsure as to whether the signatures were actually his or whether they had been forged.

In a somewhat related development, IGP Abdul Hamid Bador says police were expected to positively identify the voices in audio recordings handed to the force by the MACC by this week or the next. Investigators would then summon the individuals identified to have their statements recorded.

MACC chief commissioner Latheefa Koya had said the commission had identified the voices as being that of Najib, wife Rosmah Mansor, one of her predecessors Dzulkifli Ahmad, who was then with the Attorney-General’s Chambers and several others, including two foreigners.

Hmmm … maybe we should get the same people who identified Jibby and co to look into the sex video allegedly of Azmin Ali, since our coppers couldn’t decide who the stars were.

Your blame game is lame, Pakatan

The fallout from Warisan/Pakatan’s loss in the Kimanis by-election (and four others prior to that) continues.

DAP MP Ramkarpal Singh has called for PM Maddey to take responsibility for the loss. The son of DAP stalwart Karpal Singh said the Mads statement that he is also willing to work with former foes did not bode well for Pakatan.

OK dude, but the fact that Mahathir is working with you and Lim Guan Eng and the rest of DAP, as well as Anwar Ibrahim and PKR, and the likes of Mohamad “Mat” Sabu and Amanah means is he’s already working with former foes. So, why are you surprised at what he’s saying now?

More importantly, why blame only one man? What happened to collective responsibility? If you guys can’t get your act together, how can one man do anything? And most importantly, if that one man is going rogue, what are the rest of you people doing to rein him in? The question of collective responsibility is one that Pengerang MP Azalina Othman and former Bersih head Ambiga Sreenevasan both threw at Ramkarpal

Of course, Bersatu members also don’t agree with Ramkarpal and other Maddey detractors, and Mahathir head cheerleader Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman flew to the defence of Atok. He accused these people of going back on the consensus to allow Mahathir to lead. How can Atok administer the country if every single damn day he is facing pressure to resign

Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin of PKR, meanwhile, has called on Pakatan leaders to heed Mahathir’s warning. Change, she says, or the warning of a one-term administration will come true.

No shit, Sherlock. But let’s see if anything happens aside from them talking a good game.

Bits and bobs

Here are a few other things which happened yesterday which we thought were important or interesting enough to include in brief:

  • SK Stella Maris in Sabah has been closed after six pupils were diagnosed with H1N1
     
  • Pahang is studying the possibility of making it compulsory for athletes to wear syariah-compliant attire for sports. Sighhhh…
     
  • Moneybags Minister Lim Guan Eng denied car prices were set to go up, but in practically the same breath said the government was still discussing the restructuring of excise duties. He also said the gomen has yet to decide on the date for the new fuel subsidy programme.
     
  • Seremban has been given city status. Yang di-Pertuan Besar Negeri Sembilan, Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir proclaimed this yesterday as he opened the new Seremban City Council. Yay Somban and Nogori.
     
  • In the spirit of the upcoming CNY celebrations, we thought we should point you towards Aquaria KLCC, where you can check out an underwater dragon dance at the Living Ocean section.

“If you want to be a millionaire, start with a billion dollars and launch a new airline.”

- Richard Branson -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • It’s a historic day in the US as the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump begins. Get live updates here.
     
  • The new coronavirus from China has made its way to US shores as the Center for Disease Control confirmed that a man in his 30s who arrived in Seattle from Wuhan had been diagnosed as suffering from it.
     
  • The Australian bushfires have revealed an ancient aquatic system older than Egypt’s pyramids.
     
  • How’s this for cool? The UK has issued a commemorative coin featuring the Queen on one side and British rock band Queen on the other.
     
  • On Jan 27, 1945, the Soviet Red Army liberated Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland. In conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the liberation, Associated Press has released a picture gallery of what it looks like now. Links to other stories on the horrors of the death camp can be found here.

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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