Utusan no longer under Umno’s direct control

Umno lost direct control over Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Bhd after Datuk Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir’s purchase of a 31.6 per cent stake in the company. ― File picture by Saw Siow Feng
Umno lost direct control over Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Bhd after Datuk Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir’s purchase of a 31.6 per cent stake in the company. ― File picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 8 — The publisher of Malay daily Utusan Malaysia is no longer directly controlled by Umno today, after 31.6 per cent stake of the company was bought over by former Kulim-Bandar Baharu MP Datuk Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir today.

The Star reported that the Umno politician, who is the current executive chairman of the company, was re-appointed to the post early this month, following the expiry of his previous tenure in the group, which spanned six months from June 7, 2018, until Dec 13, 2018.

Following the sale, Umno’s stake in Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Bhd dropped from 49.77 per cent to merely 18.17 per cent, ending the long control of the political party over the company, which lasted for decades.

According to stock market data, a block of 35 million shares in Utusan crossed at a huge premium on Friday.

That block represented a 31.6 per cent stake in the company based on its paid-up capital of 110.73 million shares.

Data showed the block of shares was sold at 19 sen per unit, which was 7.5 sen, or 65.2 per cent, higher than Utusan’s last closing market price of 11.5 sen.

Utusan was classified as a Practice Note 17 (PN17) company in August last yea after going through losses.  

PN17 companies are referred to as financially-distressed entities which need to submit their proposals to Bursa Malaysia to restructure and revive themselves to maintain listing status.

To restore its ailing financial position following the fall of Barisan Nasional in the previous general election, the group have introduced a series of initiatives namely, staff rationalisation and asset disposal.

Changes were also took place in Utusan’s board, as Tan Sri Mohamad Fatmi Che Salleh stepped down as non-executive chairman, while Datuk Seri Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad and Jamalul Kiram Mohd Zakaria resign from the independent non-executive directors post in May last year.

Utusan had long-term and short-term debts of RM137.8 million, while cash stood at RM13 million as of end of September 2018.

Of its debts, the short-term obligation was RM54.3 million. However, Utusan has investment assets in its books of RM89.7 million and also property, plant and equipment valued at RM196.3 million.

Lately, the Malay paper has been vocal against former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and some Umno leaders.

This was followed by calls for the newspaper to be de-politicised and for it to remain as a voice of reason for the Malays.

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