Utusan Malaysia shuts down

Copies of the Utusan Malaysia newspaper at a stall in Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur December 22, 2018. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Copies of the Utusan Malaysia newspaper at a stall in Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur December 22, 2018. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — Utusan Malaysia, the nation’s oldest Malay language daily, will officially cease operations today, after a prolonged financial crisis that saw its workers protest it over unpaid wages.

Its publisher, Utusan Melayu Bhd, sent out a circular to inform employees that its board of directors approved on October 7 the creditors’ voluntary liquidation and appointed UHY Advisory KL as its interim liquidator.

Malay Mail obtained a copy of the circular from an employee of the newspaper.

“The company had tried to sell the group and company’s assets for funding and to obtain sufficient cash flow.

“However, the daily distribution of Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo! continued dwindling and the failure to hit the RM4 million monthly advertising revenue placed Utusan’s cash flow in a critical state.

“Therefore, the company will cease operations effective Wednesday, October 9, 2019,” the circular said.

The notice which was signed by Utusan Malaysia’s executive chairman, Datuk Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir, read that owing to the critical state of the company’s revenue, workers’ wages as well as debts were not able to be paid on time.

“The company now faces various lawsuits from creditors,” Sheikh Fadzir said.

In the circular, he said that the last working day for Utusan staff will be today, with their service tenure ending on October 31.

He said that a special briefing session would be conducted by the company’s liquidators on October 30, at Dewan Besar Utusan, where staffs can pose their queries on any issues.

Utusan Malaysia began operating before the Malaysia’s independence in 1939.

It was first published as Utusan Melayu, using the jawi medium, before the current Romanised version began publication on September 1, 1967.

Last year, the staff of newspapers Utusan and Kosmo! threatened to picket following a similar wage issue, but called it off after the management came up with an amicable solution.

As of December 2018, approximately 800 employees had accepted the voluntary separation scheme (VSS). However, their payments were also delayed.

The Utusan Group, which publishes Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo!, is currently on PN17 status on the Malaysian Stock Exchange after failing to pay an outstanding debt of nearly RM1.2 million to two banks.

State news agency Bernama reported that trading in the securities of Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Bhd would be suspended with effect from August 28, with its shares de-listed on August 30.

The report stated that in a filing with Bursa Malaysia on August 20, the 80-year-old Malay-language newspaper publisher said that it has failed to regularise its condition based on the Main Market listing requirements, after failing to submit its regularisation plan to the Securities Commission (SC) or Bursa Securities for approval.

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