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Image: Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia Airlines “will not be shut down”: minister

The finance minister is forced to clarify comments by the PM, as a study with all options on the table is set to be launched.

Malaysia’s government is to launch a study that will decide the fate of the country’s ailing national carrier Malaysia Airlines.

However, finance minister Lim Guan Eng has given his assurance that the government is not going to shut the airline down.

Clarifying comments made by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that “it’s a serious matter to shut down the national airline”, he said that closing the carrier was just one of a number of options presented to the prime minister.

“Mahathir was only talking about the various options that were presented on Malaysia Airlines. He was not talking about closing down Malaysia Airlines,” Lim clarified.

The long-troubled airline’s sole shareholder, the national sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional, posted a pre-tax loss of RM 6.3 billion (€1.36 billion) for 2018, its first since 2005.

This was after it racked up RM7.3 billion in impairments registered last year in sustaining the airline, The Edge Markets reported.

Malaysia Airlines itself posted a marginally lower loss for the year as it continued to be hit by a number of factors, as well as crew shortages in the second half of 2018.

Economic benefits
Earlier this week, the Malaysian prime minister was reported to have said at a press conference: “To me, it’s a serious matter to shut down the national airline. We will nevertheless study whether we should shut it down or sell it off, or refinance it. All of these options are open for the government to decide.”

The managing director of Khazanah Nasional, Shahril Ridzuan, said according to the New Straits Times: “As a shareholder, we think that the important question to be asked is whether every dollar spent on MAS is generating other economic benefits to the country, which the government needs to answer to determine the right level of support for the airline.”

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