The share swap deal between Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia could not be blamed for the national carrier’s annual net loss, AirAsia X non-executive chair Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said last night.
“MAS has been making losses from some time back and it is not because of the share swap,” she said at a question-and-answer session.
MAS last month posted its highest-ever annual net loss of RM2.52 billion, prompting chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya to say that the airline was facing a “crisis”.
The national flag carrier attributed the losses to increases in fuel price, which rose from $95 a barrel in 2010 to $133 in 2011.
The bigger than expected losses were also due to one-off provisions such as the redelivery of aircraft, impairment of freighters, and stock obsolescence.
Tan Sri Rafidah defended the shares deal, and said the two airlines would not have agreed to it “if there was no mutual benefit”.
Asked why the public was dissatisfied with the deal, Rafidah said she felt MAS had not done a thorough job of explaining the benefits of the swap.
“MAS has not given enough explanation… there has to be details,” the Umno MP for Kuala Kangsar said. “There has been no thorough, complete explanation.”
Unions and associations representing MAS employees last month met prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to unravel the collaboration. They are planning to take their fight to Parliament.
The move could raise the political stakes, as the unions claim that a vast majority of their members have switched allegiance to the opposition.
MAS Employees Union (Maseu) secretary-general Abdul Malek Ariff told The Malaysian Insider recently that the union was sending the memorandum it submitted to Najib opposing the deal to parliamentarians from Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat.
Maseu, based in peninsular Malaysia, has about 7,000 members. Abdul Malek said seven other unions and associations representing MAS employees, managers and pilots – including those from Sabah and Sarawak – were represented in the memorandum. Together they totalled 13,000 to 14,000 employees.
The Malaysian Insider reported on March 9 that Putrajaya was reviewing the eight-month-old MAS-AirAsia alliance as it had failed to show any promised improvement or lift the morale of the 20,000 MAS staff.
The Najib administration is also considering taking MAS private by directing state asset manager Khazanah to buy back a 20.5 per cent stake exchanged with Tune Air Sdn Bhd, the majority owner of AirAsia, for a10 per cent stake in Southeast Asia’s largest budget carrier.
Khazanah and Tune Air agreed to the share swap last August, after four previous unsuccessful attempts for an alliance between MAS and AirAsia, which soared from a decade ago when founder Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and partners bought the two-aircraft operation and its debts for RM1.-By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal