PETALING JAYA: The government will not rule out the possibility of selling beleaguered Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAS) to foreign takers, if the price is right, according to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The Prime Minister said he was not against the idea of adopting a similar model to the Proton-Geely partnership, which has seemed to put the local company (Proton) in a good shape.
“There is, of course, this idea that some foreign companies might take a big piece of MAS. We are not against the idea,” he said in an interview with BFM radio station today.
He was asked if the government was willing to adopt the Proton-Geely approach, which saw China’s Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd purchasing a 49% stake from Proton to save the company from further troubles.
Mahathir, however, noted that there are certain quarters who were against such a deal, which would mean a huge a non-Malaysian holding a major stake in the national carrier owned, due to the sentimental value of the airline.
“There are some who are very sentimental, so they want to see MAS owned entirely by Malaysians.
“However, there are no Malaysian investors strong enough to take up (the deal),” he said.
Mahathir had in June said the country was willing to consider selling MAS if there was a good offer on the table, claiming despite the government’s best effort to turn around the airline, it has failed.
Commenting further, Mahathir said the government was still looking for solutions to save the national carrier, but admitted it has not been easy.
“The previous government has injected RM6 billion, sacked 6,000 staff, and in addition, reduced the number of flights. And yet the losses have been high,” he said.
The premier also acknowledged that one of the factors to have affected MAS’ businesses was the rise of low-cost carriers, noting that when MAS was first formed, carriers like AirAsia has yet to exist.
Meanwhile, Mahathir said the government would look to sell more assets in the future to raise funds to increase the government coffers.
While he did not specifically mention which assets would be offloaded, he said some of these assets, which included properties overseas, are already in the process of negotiation.
“We have some properties which we are not in need of at the moment, and can fetch a good price if we sell them. We have properties, for example, in Hong Kong and Singapore, among others,” he said.
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