After MAHB slump, Loke told to put nation ahead of private interests
Former deputy transport minister Aziz Kaprawi has reminded Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook that Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) is a strategic government investment and that he should place national interests ahead of private investors’ interests.
Loke has come under fire from blogger A Kadir Jasin for “talking down the market” and causing the MAHB share price to tumble after reportedly hinting of new private partners for the country’s biggest airport operator.
Loke had reportedly said in a closed-door briefing that the government intends to adopt the public-private partnership model for airport operations, implying that MAHB may have new partners, including foreign parties. In short, theedgemarkets.com said, MAHB may have to share its pie.
Speaking to FMT, Aziz said Loke had to realise how his comments could affect companies as shown by a selldown of MAHB shares leading to a 66-sen drop in share price, wiping RM1.09 billion off its market capitalisation.
“It seems the Pakatan Harapan ministers work in silos and as such do not see the bigger picture. MAHB is a strategic company which essentially belongs to the government. It’s shareholders include Khazanah Nasional and the Employees Provident Fund. So when MAHB suffers losses, it affects their investors and then the people will also suffer.”
Aziz said that Loke, as transport minister, should understand that MAHB played an important social function in ensuring connectivity through its network of 39 airports, the majority of which were unprofitable.
“MAHB operates these airports, including short takeoff and landing airports (stolports) in rural parts of Sabah and Sarawak by cross subsidising their operations.”
Profit-driven private partners may not have an interest in such operations.
Aziz said this was the second time the government was making an announcement which affected MAHB, after lowering a passenger service charge for non-Asean international flights at all airports except KLIA.
Critics of the decision said it created an uneven playing field for airline operators.
Aziz said: “Though what Loke said was behind closed doors, he should have realised how it could impact other stakeholders. There has to be a proper consultation process.”
Foreign investors, particularly those in MAHB, would be spooked as Loke’s comments created uncertainties over MAHB which has a long-term concession to manage the country’s airports. It is not just investors but the livelihood of the thousands of MAHB employees, he said.
“I was quite disappointed to read the reports, we must think of the interests of all Malaysians, not just that of private companies,” Aziz said. FMT