PNB announces lowest ASB dividend since 1990, depositors furious

People walk past a Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) logo in Kuala Lumpur March 15, 2018. — Picture by Azneal Ishak
People walk past a Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) logo in Kuala Lumpur March 15, 2018. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 — Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) announced today the lowest dividend for its Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) trust unit since 1999, which it blamed on a volatile global economy.

Depositors will receive a dividend of 5 sen per unit for the current financial year and a bonus of 0.50 sen. This year’s dividend is 1.5 sen less than in 2018 and marked the lowest decline since 1990.

This year’s bonus, although the same as the previous, is also among the lowest.

A total of RM9 billion in dividends will be paid out to 10 million depositors holding over 1.6 billion worth of shares.

PNB chairman Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz at a special press conference held this evening said the fund had done considerably well considering the volatility of the world economy.

“Due to uncertainties in the financial market, the prolonged US-China trade war and a slowing global economy that has dampen demands and hurt exports, the market environment has been challenging for 2019,” said Zeti.

“Despite the challenging situation, ASB still managed to pay dividends worth RM9 billion for the financial year 2019.”

Zeti added profits came on the back of “well-planned” increased foreign investments.

As of December 16, the KL Composite Index (KLCI) posted declines of up to 7.2 per cent, making it among the world’s worst performers.

This is the fifth from six straight years the local index has posted negative yields, Zeti said.

The record low dividend has left depositors stunned. Pensioners who rely on dividends from ASB for monthly expenses said they are particularly affected. Most blamed the Pakatan Harapan administration for their predicament.

“The low dividend means I lose nearly RM300 worth of monthly income,” said one pensioner who requested not to be named.

“This is really upsetting. I’m telling you people will vote this government out if things keep going this way.”

* A previous version of this report incorrectly stated that quantum of the dividend announced. The error has been rectified.

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