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Shahrir urged gov’t to buy back MAS at market price 
Susan Loone


4:20pm, Mon: The government should purchase the shares of national carrier MAS at market price to avoid being accused of arbitrarily bailing out certain individuals or groups, said an Umno supreme council member. 

In a Dec 22 letter to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad obtained by malaysiakini, veteran Umno politician Shahrir Abdul Samad said that while Malaysia Airlines (MAS) should be rescued for the sake of the people at large, the government should not overspend by buying back the shares above market price. 

“The government and Umno will be criticised heavily and lose a lot of support if its (government’s) decision to buy back the shares at RM8 per share is misconstrued as a bailout when millions of ringgit can be utilised to help those who are in need,” he said. 

“This will jeopardise Umno’s image and reputation because the future of the party is uncertain,” he added. 

A copy of the letter was also sent to the party’s deputy leader, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the vice-presidents and all members of the supreme council. 

Rescuing Tajudin 

Recently, the government had purchased the 29.09 percent equity owned by former MAS chief executive officer Tajudin Ramli (224 million shares at RM8 each or RM1.792 bil) through a company called Naluri Berhad. 

It was also understood that the government purchased the shares by taking advantage of the Pensions Trust Fund (Kumpulan Wang Amanah Pencen). 

Shahrir added that some shares belonging to the Brunei government had been earlier purchased at RM4 per share, which is much more reflective of the market price. 

He urged Mahathir to purchase the shares at that level. 

“In my opinion, buying back the shares above market price (RM8) is seen as an opportunity to rescue an individual and not a Malaysian airline company,” Sharir said, adding that when the company was privatised to Tajudin, it was in a profitable state. 

“However, today when it is returned to the government, the company is in a weak and weary state,” he added. 

Shahir said that the RM8 per share is too much for the government to pay. 

Unjustifiable decision 

He also said that Mahathir had often reminded Umno leaders and members that the party is currently being viewed in a hostile manner and that Umno should forge closer alliances with members at the grassroots. 

However, since the issue of the MAS share purchase hit the media, the public had responded by agreeing generally to the purchase but frowned on the fact of it being purchased at double the market price. 

“Umno leaders cannot justify the government’s decision at grassroots level. This issue will definitely be exploited by the opposition to attack Umno and there is no way to convince those who are ‘sitting on the fence’,” said Shahrir. 

“This would prove entirely everything that the government and Umno had been accused of in the last general elections and reflect the fact that Barisan Nasional had not changed since then,” he added.

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