Friday, 11 November 2011
Is saving MAS still a priority?
The aviation scene in Malaysia is not about free and fair competition. It never has been.
It was a monopoly in the 1990s. It is a monopoly now. The government made it that way.
The only difference is, in the 1990s it was to safeguard the flag carrier's interests, now.... well, you can't really be sure why it's still a monopoly.
The share-swap between Khazanah Nasional Bhd and AirAsia Bhd founders Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun was essentially to save MAS.
Khazanah appeared to relax its policy to reduce its stake in companies. There is also the concern that corporate governance could be compromised by both MAS and AirAsia having common shareholders. All in the name of saving MAS.
At least you would have thought that was why Khazanah did it.
Barely three months into the deal though, Firefly's jet operations are virtually non-existent, its reputation in tatters, news of Caterham Jet breaks, and there is still no news of MAS' game plan.
Saving MAS doesn't seem to have been a priority.
Just to be clear, Caterham Jet is not a figment of anyone's imagination. Filings to Companies Commission Malaysia show that CaterhamJet Malaysia Sdn Bhd was incorporated on October 4 2011.
Its shareholders are Jasmindar Kaur, the company secretary, and Lotusjet Holdings Pte Ltd, a company controlled by Fernandes and Kamaruddin.
Representatives of the company have not only started preliminary talks with Skypark Subang, they have also even been to see the Department of Civil Aviation to check on technical details.
So where is Khazanah's hand in this? Did it not know of Fernandes' plans for Caterham Jet, a business that could hurt MAS' plans for a recovery?
Could Fernandes really have planned for Caterham Jet without Khazanah's blessings?
The latter after all owns Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd.
Where does all this leave the embattled carrier MAS then?
Will a super premium business jet operation really not affect MAS? We don't even know how premium MAS will be.
Fernandes is a businessman. He is no one's saviour. If any party were to play that role it should have been the government.
And no, not in the form of a bailout.
It should be in the form of precise and sound policies that may not be popular but clearly dictate how the aviation sector should be developed.