AirAsia co-founder, partners begin building war chest for Malaysia Airlines bid

Justin Ong
A report today said that AirAsia co-founder and former chairman Datuk Pahamin Ab Rajab is leading a group gathered under the umbrella of Najah Air Sdn Bhd that is seeking a loan for the sum from a Japanese lender. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 — Datuk Pahamin Ab Rajab and a group of businessmen are seeking to raise RM1 billion believed to be for their attempt to take over ailing Malaysia Airlines Bhd.

The Edge reported today that the AirAsia co-founder and former chairman is leading the group gathered under the umbrella of Najah Air Sdn Bhd that is seeking a loan for the sum from a Japanese lender.

Citing sources, The Edge said discussions were still preliminary but added that the loan, if successful, would form the bulwark of Najah and his group’s bid for the national carrier.

Others also told the business paper that Tan Sri Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim of Weststar Group, who is also eyeing Malaysia Airlines, has contacted Najah to discuss possibly pooling their resources for a joint takeover.

Interest in a possible takeover of Malaysia Airlines erupted after Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad indicated that the carrier may be sold as the government could no longer continue bailing it out.

However, Dr Mahathir also said that the suitors so far have not convinced him of their ability to revive the struggling airline.

Aviation consultancy Endau Analytics’s founder, Shukor Yusof, told The Edge that the government should convene a panel similar to the Council of Eminent Persons to steer discussions on the possible takeover.

“No one person can help deliver solutions to Malaysia Airlines,” he was quoted as saying by The Edge.

“It has to be a collective initiative — a group of professional Malaysians who are like-minded, independent and with integrity, who will advise the prime minister to find the best solutions for the carrier, including appointing a new management and board of directors at the airline.”

Dr Mahathir formed the CEP in the early days of his administration to advise him on national matters that urgently needed attention from the Pakatan Harapan government that was then in its infancy.

Shukor proposed a similar task force to oversee the Malaysia Airlines sale and revival for a period of one year.

He also called for a clearout of the existing Malaysia Airlines management, saying both their planning and execution of the latest the national carrier’s turnaround were flawed.

Previously, The Edge reported that more suitors were lining up to bid for Malaysia Airlines that the prime minister said would be sold if a “good offer” was made to the government.

After continued chronic losses, Malaysia Airlines endured two major incidents in 2014 when it lost Flight MH370 in March and Flight MH17 in July of the year.

The two disasters effectively doomed the previous revival of the airline and forced Khazanah Nasional into its latest rescue plan that included delisting Malaysia Airlines from the local stock exchange.

The new management then launched into a five-year plan to return the airline to profitability but did not ultimately stem its continued losses, resulting in the government’s current intention to sell it off to private buyers.

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