Turning Malaysia Airlines Around


September 4, 2014

Blogging from Tokyo, Japan

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Story by
Chan Quan Min (09-02-14)
quanmin@kinibiz.com

Make no mistake about it, Malaysia Airlines’ fourth rescue plan in as little as 14 years is more daring than ever. KiniBiz points out the differences, one of which is the severe job cuts, and asks if this is part of a strategy that will lead to a smaller airline with a clear focus on yield management.

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Over a hundred reporters crammed into a library on the 33rd floor of the Petronas Twin Towers last Friday to hear Khazanah Nasional managing director Azman Mokhtar lay out the details of a 12-point restructuring plan that will plough RM6 billion into Malaysia Airlines over the next three years.

As Azman spoke, it was immediately clear Khazanah had taken over the reins. The “complete overhaul” of struggling Malaysia Airlines or MAS, with an end-2017 deadline to return to profitability, would be under the purview of the state investment fund.

In contrast, previous turnaround plans were initiated not by Khazanah but by former MAS CEO Idris Jala in 2006 and 2009, and more recently, by current CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya in 2011.

It turned out that rumours of Jauhari stepping down at the end of his three-year term in September were only half-true. False because Jauhari would stay on as CEO for another year and true because he would be leading what would eventually become just a shell company with up to 6,000 redundant employees.

Khazanah’s restructuring or “recovery” plan is perhaps the most daring yet for being the first to make decisive job cuts.

About 30% of the staff count will lose their jobs and to facilitate this painful process a new company will be set up as the “new MAS.” Just the employees that Khazanah wishes to retain will transfer to this new company in the coming months, an arrangement that eliminates the need for what might be a messy retrenchment process.

“This takes guts, and I give it to them for having the courage,” Mohshin Aziz, an aviation analyst at Maybank IB said in an email to bank clients.Employees left in the old company can elect to join programmes specifically set up for them to learn new skills for employment elsewhere.

Azman MokhtarAccording to the recovery plan, the operations, assets and liabilities of the old company will be migrated to the new company by July 2015. The MAS identity and branding will not be lost in the process, Azman assured.

The new company or new MAS, as Azman puts it, will “critically involve a significantly corrected cost and operational structure” because the airline will unceremoniously terminate any contracts that are deemed unfair during the migration process.

In short, Malaysia Airlines will start on a clean slate. And to make sure that there are no stumbling blocks on the way, the government will seek to pass legislation – a MAS Act – to specifically address any legal issues that might arise.

The likelihood that such a piece of legislation will pass Parliament is without doubt. The highest levels of government have at this early stage shown the conviction to apply the required medicine to nurse MAS back to health.

“Only wholesale change will deliver a genuinely strong and sustainable Malaysia Airlines,” Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who in also the Chairman of Khazanah, said in a foreword to the 38-page recovery plan.

“If we seek a different outcome from past experiences, we must have the courage to choose a different method. Piecemeal change will not work,” he insisted.

Global search

Aside from the job cuts, Khazanah’s Azman appears to have also committed himself to another “different method,” that of a “global search” for a new CEO to lead the new MAS. Khazanah found the current CEO, Jauhari, from within its group of related companies. But his replacement, according to Azman, could come from just about anywhere.

“The search has begun,” he said. “And we are looking at both Malaysian leadership talent and global aviation specialists.”

One of the new CEO’s first tasks, Azman told reporters, would be to make the “decision on who stays and who leaves.”

Khazanah’s mention of “aviation specialists” points to a shift in hiring practices. Past CEOs Idris Jala and Tengku Azmil Zahruddin as well as current CEO Jauhari were appointed without any prior aviation experience. Jauhari’s admission that his turnaround plan was not working, made after the last Malaysian Airline System Bhd Annual General meeting in late June could have spurred Khazanah to consider an aviation man (or woman) as his replacement.

READ On:

http://www.kinibiz.com/story/issues/105921/mas-rescue-4.0-what%E2%80%99s-different-this-time.html?utm_source=applet_mkinicom&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=mkinicom

AND This:

http://www.kinibiz.com/story/issues/105921/mas-rescue-4.0-what%E2%80%99s-different-this-time.html

Malaysia Airlines will be fully owned by Malaysian Government


August 9, 2014

MAS Restructuring : Leave no stones unturned

by Din Merican

Azman MokhtarWell done, TS Azman Mokhtar for making this strategic move at this time, when Malaysians of goodwill are with our government following MH370 and MH17 tragedies where lives were lost. We look forward to know the details of your plan to restructure our national flag carrier.

We hope you will be tough with the MAS Staff Union, and not allow it to dictate what Khazanah should do in the national interest. So reduce staffing. Deal with crony contracts. Review the routes and financing of aircraft; and appoint competent professionals to manage the airline, and have a truly independent Board of Directors,  and finally please seek the advice of MAS elders like Tan Sri Rama Iyer, Tan Sri Saw Huat Lye, Tan Sri Aziz Abdul Rahman and Dato’ Kamaruddin Ahmad.

All of us want MAS to succeed but the restructuring must be comprehensive so that the rot that has plagued our national flag carrier in recent years can be eliminated. Let us face the moments of truth with a healthy corporate culture. Therefore, make use of this opportunity to start on a clean slate. Let us hope Prime Minister Najib has the political will to make a new beginning for MAS.

Malaysia Airlines will be fully owned by Malaysian Government’s Khazanah

by Thomas Fuller@www.nytimes.com

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/09/business/international/malaysia-airlines-to-be-taken-over-by-government.html?ref=asia

BANGKOK — Mired in debt and reeling from two aircraft disasters this year, Malaysia Airlines will be fully taken over by the government as a prelude to a restructuring, the Malaysian government said Friday.

MASKhazanah Nasional, the investment arm of the Malaysian government, formally requested the delisting of the airline in a letter to the Malaysian stock exchange on Friday and offered to buy back shares at a price 12.5 percent higher than Thursday’s closing price.

Malaysia Airlines had been losing money for several years when five months ago, a flight bound for China disappeared, and no trace of the aircraft or its 239 passengers has been found. Just over three weeks ago, another Malaysia Airlines plane exploded over Ukraine, killing almost 300 people.

Khazanah was vague about its plans for the airline, saying only that it intended “to undertake a comprehensive review and restructuring” and that the airline had “substantial funding requirements.” Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak, said a “holistic restructuring plan” would be announced by the end of the month.

“This process of renewal will involve painful steps and sacrifices from all parties,” he said in a statement that specifically mentioned the need for support from, among others, the airline’s creditors, raising the possibility of a debt write-down.

The share buyback, which would cost Khazanah about 1.4 billion ringgit, or $437 million, still needs approval by private shareholders, who own about 30 percent of the company. Khazanah’s offer price of 27 sen, 0.27 ringgit, a share appears favorable to stockholders: That price was last reached in February, before the company’s two tragedies.

The disappearance in March of Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing remains a mystery, and a search in the southern Indian Ocean is still underway. On July 17, 298 passengers on a Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed when a company Boeing 777 was shot down over Ukraine.

The disasters aggravated what was already poor financial performance by the airline, which has lost money for the past three years and has been squeezed by nimbler rivals, like Air Asia, the privately owned, low-cost airline also based out of Malaysia that has grown exponentially since beginning operations more than a decade ago.

Malaysia Airlines, which began as Malayan Airlines, in 1947 during the British colonial period, has suffered a number of sharp losses in recent decades. It has often been managed by business executives close to the governing party, the United Malays National Organization, and was bailed out by the government at least once. Like many other government-linked companies in Malaysia, the airline is saddled with ties to influential contractors connected to the party, which has governed the country since independence in 1957.

The Malaysian government sees the carrier as a national strategic asset. In a statement Friday, Khazanah said the goal of the restructuring was to make the airline profitable but also for it to “serve its function as a critical national development entity.”

Khalid’s Shameful Stonewalling


August 8, 2014

Khalid’s Shameful Stonewalling

“A man’s character is his fate.”– Greek Philosopher Heraclitus. So shall it be with Khalid Ibrahim

by Din Merican

KHALID IBRAHIM

Reasonable men should be disgusted (and Khalid obviously is not) to read that Khalid continues to hold on to the post of Selangor Menteri Besar, despite the fact that his own party, Parti KeADILan Rakyat, wants him to be replaced by Dato Seri Dr. Wan Azizah.

Having lost his Klang divisional post and  having been defeated by his main rival, Azmin Ali, in the contest for the post of Deputy President (official results pending), he shamelessly hangs on to his post. Not to be cowed, he lobbied PAS’ Hadi Awang and Nik Aziz for support  and used the media to vent his frustrations. In the process, he has created a crisis of sorts in the state. Both Hadi and Nik Aziz should know that Khalid’s disagreement with PKR leadership is an internal matter and therefore, they should abstain from making public statements that can put the Pakatan Rakyat coalition at risk.

How desperate can anyone be to cling tenaciously to the post that is no longer his, having lost the confidence of his own party. Khalid conveniently forgets that he was chosen for the job in 2008 and reappointed in 2013 by the party leadership and its members. In our system of parliamentary democracy, we don’t elect the Menteri Besar directly as Americans do in the election of their President. So Khalid cannot claim that he is the Menteri Besar by choice of voters in Selangor. He is, in fact, now a party dissident and his continued defiance of the party and unwillingness to face PKR’s Disciplinary Board to answer charges against him should be dealt with firmly.

Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim has hit back at PKR, warning the party not to victimise him as its disciplinary board's recent demands "are unreasonable and suspicious".

Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim has hit back at PKR, warning the party not to victimise him as its disciplinary board’s recent demands “are unreasonable and suspicious”.

Why this defiance? Constitutional lawyer, Tommy Thomas says that “[T]he continued refusal by Khalid Ibrahim to tender his resignation as Menteri Besar of Selangor after losing support of his own political party demonstrates ambition and stubbornness to cling on to office at all costs.”(The Malaysian Insider)

There is more this than just “ambition and stubborness.”  PKR said that as Menteri Besar, Khalid had acted without consulting party leaders on a number of issues, such as water rationing, and the takeover and restructuring of water concessionaires in Selangor, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (MAIS)’s seizure of Malay-and Iban-language Bibles as well as Khalid’s push for the Kinrara-Damansara Expressway (KIDEX), which was awarded to an UMNO crony company. KIDEX went against Pakatan’s election manifesto to abolish tolled highways.

His Bank Islam loan settlement also became an issue, as party insiders thought he had compromised himself.  The party report stated that Khalid’s  refusal to give a logical explanation or to act transparently in the matter of settling his RM70 million debt to the bank, especially after his rushed actions in the month following Bank Islam ending its legal action, only strengthened the PKR leadership’s conclusion that there was reasonable doubt about his integrity.

In March, a month after Bank Islam dropped its loan settlement suit against Khalid, two business deals worth hundreds of millions of ringgit were signed between the Selangor government and Eco World Berhad, a company controlled by Tan Sri Rashid Manaf, whom PKR said was an ex-lawyer of former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin. Tropicana Corporation Berhad reportedly announced on March 19 that it sold 308.72 acres of land bought from the Selangor government last year to Eco World.

PKR also noted that the Selangor government’s sale of 1,172 acres of land to Tropicana in April 2013 for RM1.3 billion had appeared to favour the company as Tropicana had 20 years from the date of the agreement to pay the state government in full. On March 25 this year, less than a week after Tropicana’s announcement on its land deal with Eco World, Khalid reportedly awarded Eco World a contract to build 2,400 affordable houses in Sungai Sering, Ukay Perdana, estimated to be worth RM591 million.

PKR also said Selangor was on the losing end in its controversial water industry restructuring agreement with Putrajaya, pointing out that the federal government obtained Selangor’s approval to construct the Langat 2 water treatment plant, while Putrajaya was not obligated to force a takeover of the water concessionnaires that refused Selangor’s offer.

It is time for Khalid Ibrahim to own up to these charges and face the consequences of his actions as Selangor Menteri Besar. If it can be proven beyond any reasonable doubt that he had acted against the interest of the interest of the state, thereby bring discredit to his party and Pakatan Rakyat, he  should step down. But it would appear that he is not likely to do so.

Khalid will not quietly disappear into the night. He is under enormous pressure to hang on to his job because there are forces that want the Selangor crisis to remain as long as possible. The man who cannot do that for them is Khalid Ibrahim. The consequences are obvious. It could lead to the fall of the Pakatan Rakyat government in Selangor, PAS leaving the coalition, the political demise of Anwar Ibrahim who was the mastermind of the Kajang move, and snap elections.

READ ON: http://www.theantdaily.com/Outspoken/If-stalemate-persists-dissolution-of-Selangor-State-Assembly-looks-likely/

Tan Sri Halim Saad set to take Sumatec up the corporate ladder


July 31, 2014

Tan Sri Halim Saad set to take Sumatec up the corporate ladder

by Sharen Kaur@www.nst.com.my – 31 July 2014 @ 1:15 AM

ASSET INJECTION: Firm targeting more than RM1b profit by 2018, say sources

FORMER Renong Bhd Executive Chairman Tan Sri Halim Saad is scaling up Sumatec Resources Bhd, which is set to make more than RM1 billion in net profit by 2018.

Halim Saad3

Halim controls 24.9 per cent of Sumatec and has been maintaining his shares since last November as he believes that the company can grow fast. “He is not selling his shares any time soon. He plans to build up the company by injecting more assets into it. He is eyeing some oil and gas (O&G) assets in Central Asia,” said a source.

Sumatec expects to produce 30,000 barrels of oil a day in Kazakhstan by 2018. Sources say the company is targeting an average net profit of US$30 (RM95.30) per barrel. “This means it will make around US$900,000 a day from 30,000 barrels, or more than US$328.5 million a year, compared with less than US$20 million currently from existing operations,” said the source.

For the financial year ending December 31 2014, Sumatec is projecting RM69 million in profits. The firm is producing oil at the Rakuschechnoye field with Markmore Energy (Labuan) Ltd, which is 99 per cent-owned by Halim.

Sumatec expects to produce 5,000 barrels of oil and gas a day from this field in the next three years. It is also acquiring Borneo Energy Oil and Gas Ltd, which owns 100 per cent of Buzachi Neft LLP, for US$250 million in cash and shares.

Buzachi has two 25-year contracts  to explore and produce oil and gas in the Karaturun Vostochnyi and Karaturun Morskoi fields, also known as Buzachi Fields.

At a recent media briefing, Sumatec Chief Executive Officer Chris Dalton said he expects the acquisition to be completed by October. He said the two assets will contribute US$1.62 million to Sumatec’s profits in the fourth quarter.

Sumatec is targeting to produce 25,000 barrels of oil and gas a day from the Buzachi Fields.  Meanwhile, Sumatec is expected to move out of its  PN17 status by next month and will submit its application to the Securities Commission soon.

BOOK REVIEW: Shankaran Nambiar’s The Malaysian Economy: Rethinking Policies & Purposes


July 30, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Shankaran Nambiar’s new book, The Malaysian Economy: Rethinking Policies & Purposes 

by Tricia Yeoh@ http://www.thesundaily.com.my

FEW writers and analysts are able to both identify precisely the challenges facing the Malaysian economy as well as communicate these in a manner easy to digest. Shankaran Nambiar’s new book, The Malaysian Economy: Rethinking Policies & Purposes does so with bold and relevant commentary. Dating from 2003 to the present, this compilation of writings focuses on six broad themes including the need to strengthen institutions, the importance of competitiveness, regional trade, fiscal reform and finally, the reality that is the influence of elections and politics over economic policy.

?????????????????????What is prevalent throughout the book is the clear economic position he takes, arguing for a more open and free economy, one in which companies and traders would be able to compete without the shackles of a large and interventionist government. He takes cognisance that our neighbours are moving at a rapid pace, and mentions specifically China in its ability to out-compete many in the region, but that Malaysia would need to “develop our human capital and readjust our institutional framework to align it with global requirements.”

Of course, on the economic ideological continuum, criticisms often abound of the far-right leaning liberal position. More specifically, public sentiment in Malaysia has weighed heavily against the free market and privatisation. This is not surprising, since the Malaysian version of “free market” and “privatisation” is anything but. It has been but a muddied example of what a free market could actually do to improve the quality of goods and services.

Nambiar does not shy away from this oftentimes-controversial debate. He states explicitly, “privatisation, in theory, implies giving markets a bigger role … privatised companies have to be efficient … and cannot rely on the government to bail them out.”

Theoretically, yes. But in the execution of it – and Malaysia has done a poor job at this – privatisation has not been done in a fair, competitive way. In fact, what took place in our context is that when public entities were privatised, instead of improving efficiency, things got worse. Again, Nambiar hits it squarely on the head: “What was once a government monopoly now becomes a private monopoly. One form of inefficiency is substituted with another.”

Reading the book, one would initially conclude that he is a hard-hitting liberal – libertarian in American circles – and based on many principles, indeed this is so: his firm belief in competition, economic freedom, strong institutions and a legal framework, property rights and so on.

But what is refreshing to note is that he does not blindly accept what would typically be a liberal’s position, but views all subjects with a critical mind. Instead, he agrees with the need for a minimum wage because based on empirical research, this would transform the economy into one that is technologically advanced and contribute towards high value-added growth. A hardcore liberal economist would usually argue against the minimum wage as it is a false and forced imposition by government, which does put many small and medium companies out of business.

 

Finally, as many things seem to be in Malaysia, economic policy is subject to political influence, and this is evident in the many examples Nambiar provides, such as how the federal government transfers revenue to individual state governments, Najib’s electoral position determining whether or not the goods and services tax is introduced, and other “inappropriate policies” that are introduced “because of the polls”, which is “as if we have an economy balancing on the tip of a pin”, which is dangerously accurate.

Many proposals have been expressed elsewhere, on the need for fiscal reform and discipline, addressing structural issues (income distribution, corruption, crime, education), and so on. But the book’s beauty lies in its concise and deft articulation of problems and solutions. The commentaries are candid, and arguments tight. He also comes across as rational and fact-based, criticising or praising whenever necessary. This neutral, non-partisan position of analysing economic (or any other) conditions in the country is rare and must be valued.

As Malaysia enters into its final year of the 10th Malaysia Plan in 2015, and draws up its next set of policies for what would be the last five-year plan before the year 2020 – the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016 – 2020) – it is certainly worth examining Nambiar’s publication that spans the last decade or so. Where exactly are we going? Will the problems raised in his book 10 years ago start to manifest themselves in the next 10? What happens to an economy that pays little attention to such recommendations, and fails to strengthen its institutions?

Policymakers, politicians, academics and students ought to pick up this slim and thoroughly readable volume to gain a historical perspective of good and bad policy. History may not repeat itself, but its leaders may very well do – so it is up to the electorate like us to know which pressure points to press, well before the alarm bells start ringing.

Arrogance of Power and Some Shady Deals will lead to Khalid Ibrahim’s eventual political demise


July 29, 2014

Arrogance of Power and Some Shady Deals will lead to Khalid Ibrahim’s eventual political demise

“It needs now, in the intervening period before the PAS central committee meets, for light to be shed on the dubiousness of Khalid’s deal with Bank Islam for him to be painted into a corner. It’s a corner out of which not even the most powerful personages in PAS can credibly bail him out.”–Terence Netto

by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: A week is a long time in politics, former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously remarked. It’s less than a fortnight to the PAS central committee meeting that will finalise the party’s stance on the move to remove Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim.

AzizahThe PKR Top Team: Anwar, Saifuddin Nasution, Azmin Ali and Wan Azizah

Wilson’s musing on the passage of time on political events was to point up its effect as a solvent rather more than as coagulant. Time, as the wily survivor of many daunting wrangles in a faction-ridden British Labour Party in the 1960s was saying, has a bracing effect on political stances that at the outset may look more likely to bring disaster than relief.

Time’s solvent effect was perhaps the consideration behind PKR de facto Anwar Ibrahim’s statement of confidence the other day that the consensus-forging process within Pakatan Rakyat would prevail over the centrifugal forces let loose in the opposition coalition by the divisive matter of Khalid’s removal.

His ouster is desired by PKR and backed by DAP. The upper bracket of leadership of their Pakatan ally, PAS, has demurred though significant players in the Islamist party’s penultimate tier assented to Khalid’s removal.

Anwar and KhalidThe Winner is (?)

It looks like a fearful wrangle, but this is just the sort of twister that democratic politics exists to resolve, with its deliberative wheels of consultation and debate, all of which thrive on the attenuation from first – and often unreliable – impulses provided by the passage of time.

First – and inevitably, destructive – impulses were on display in the debate in social media on the options open to the party as a result of the fallout from the Khalid issue.The discussion on WhatsApp among some PAS central committee members, a snapshot of which was posted by this web news portal, exhibited the strengths and drawbacks of this promethean tool called social media.

Social media is useful for galvanising action towards constructive ends. By the same token it an easy vent for the impulsive and the rash.The latter feature is not healthy when vexed issues are being deliberated. For counsel to be wise cool detachment from the madding crowd is vital.

Pakatan will be blown to vanishing if fraught issues, whose causes have not been adequately ventilated in advance, are left like washing hung out to dry on an extremely windy day.

‘Paint him into a corner’

Khalid the MoleThe End is Near for a Man who held lots of Promise in 2008

Khalid’s moral transgressions implied in the deal that settled his long standing dispute with Bank Islam over the Guthrie shares he purchased with a loan from the bank quickly became obvious to insiders but not to initiates. Subsequent to the deal, the alacrity with which the water agreement between the Selangor state government and the federal’s was signed was unseemly.

The water agreement, like Khalid’s dispute with Bank Islam, had been long held up. Both issues’ sudden and expeditious settlement had the odor of the illicit.

Worse, the green light he appears to want to giveto the Kinrara-Damansara (Kidex) highway project was a violation of the Pakatan promise before GE-13 that there would be no more toll roads in Selangor.

This series of misdemeanors is serious enough to get him indicted in the bar of informed public opinion in Selangor. But, save for the Kidex highway, most people find the issues connected to the water agreement opaque and are unaware of the facts behind the banking deal.

But as matters such as his loss in the PKR divisional polls and his almost certain defeat by Anwar loyalist Azmin Ali in the race for Deputy President of the party make clear that he is not exactly popular, the clamour for his exit as MB mounted in tandem with his shameless public resistance to the notion.

It needs now, in the intervening period before the PAS central committee meets, for light to be shed on the dubiousness of Khalid’s deal with Bank Islam for him to be painted into a corner. It’s a corner out of which not even the most powerful personages in PAS can credibly bail him out.