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Mahathir: Govt to study if Malaysia Airlines should be sold

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Malaysian PM says the government might have to sell the troubled carrier

KUALA LUMPUR : Several parties are interested in buying the troubled national carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAS), Prime MinisterMahathir Mohamad said yesterday.

"We want to study whether or not we should sell. Although the management is externally appointed, MAS is still suffering losses," he said. "So, one of the ways is to sell."

Dr Mahathir was speaking to reporters during a press conference in the Parliament lobby.

The 93-year-old Prime Minister also revealed that there had been a proposal from former MAS executives to keep the airline under the government's purview.

"We will also consider whether we want to downsize, expand the management, or to have a new management.

"We have many planes that haven't been used adequately and this is causing losses," he said.

Pressed for his personal view of the matter, Dr Mahathir said that he still felt "love" for the national carrier.

"I love MAS. I want MAS to be a national airline. But it seems as though we can't afford it," he added.

Dr Mahathir lamented the previous strategies employed by top MAS executives.

"For example, the government gave RM6 billion (S$2 billion) to help MAS. (Even) with that, MAS sacked 6,000 workers," he said.

Last Wednesday, Dr Mahathir said the government would conduct a study to decide the fate of MAS after its losses caused massive impairment for its sole shareholder Khazanah Nasional Bhd.

Recently, Khazanah had said half of its RM7.3 billion impairments registered in 2018 went to sustain MAS.

Khazanah recorded a pre-tax loss of RM6.3 billion in 2018.

MAS was taken over by Khazanah Nasional Bhd as part of a five-year turnaround programme which started in 2014.

In a separate development, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia may end up paying up to RM130 billion for the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) due to interest incurred from the RM60 billion loan to finance the project.

The Prime Minister said the contract agreement for the project, which was introduced under the previous administration, was lopsided and did not take into the consideration the interests of the country.

"If we continue, we will be tied down with billions of ringgit in loans and it will take years for us to settle it. In the end, the debt and interest will increase to RM130 billion," he said. - THE STAR