Mahathir government still mulling Malaysia Airlines proposals

January 21, 2020
Malaysia airlines foreign interest

The Malaysian government says it is still considering investment proposals for financially-embattled Malaysia Airlines almost 11 months after a call for urgent action on the issue.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned in March last year that the government needed to move urgently to decide the future of Malaysia Airlines and even raised the prospect of closing the carrier.

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But the process is still grinding on and Mahathir told reporters in a widely reported recent briefing in Langkawi that the government had received five proposals for the airline.

“There are about five proposals but of course some of them are just no go,” Mahathir said. “We need to listen to everybody to find out what is the best solution.”

Economics Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali subsequently told business publication The Edge Markets that several international companies had expressed interest in helping the carrier.

He said the intention was not to sell the national carrier but to find a strategic partner to improve its position.

“I don’t want to give a timeline but the prime minister had received a visit from an international company and I was asked to follow up on the discussion as soon as possible,” he said.

Another Malaysian website, FocusM, reported it had seen an official document with shortlisted proposals from AirAsia Group, Japan Airlines, Air France-KLM and Malindo Airways, which is part-owned by Indonesia’s Lion Air Group.

The news prompted a call by the National Union of Flight Attendants for greater transparency over the plans for MAB.

It also expressed concern about a possible merger between AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines.

“Each time we ask about the progress of Malaysia Airlines Berhad, all seems too silent but deals are already happening behind quietly. Why so secret?” the union said.

“There is a need to be honest about these plans since MAB is of national interest.”

The Malaysian airline group was privatized in 2014 after two fatal crashes: the still-unsolved loss of MH370 and the downing of MH17 by a missile attack.

The tragedies came after a string of losses by the then Malaysia Air System Bhd and the company was de-listed after majority investor and state-run company Khazanah Nasional paid 1.4 billion ringgit to take over the shares it did not own.

A recovery plan included cutting about 6000 jobs and the transfer of the airline in 2015 to a new company, Malaysia Airlines Berhad. It was supposed to be profitable by 2019.