KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 — Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today gave his support for both suggestions to rescue beleaguered oil-and-gas operator Sapura Energy Bhd put forward in a recent debate.

Zahid said he agrees with Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s suggestion for national oil-and-gas giant Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) to take over the firm, and also Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s call for a forensic audit to determine the root cause of its financial troubles.

“As highlighted in the debate between two political figures four days ago, companies whose equity holdings are joined by Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) such as Sapura Energy where there are over 10 million trust shareholdings, Amanah Saham Nasional also has the interest to help.

“More than RM5 billion has been invested by PNB. The company employs over ten thousand workers and over three thousand vendors are involved. Without using direct government funds, Petronas is suitable to take over and do a ‘turn-around’ as soon as possible,” he said in his opening speech for the Umno’s extraordinary general meeting (EGM) today. 

“However, we agree that forensic auditing must also be done so that it is more transparent,” he added.

In the debate, disgraced former prime minister Najib said Petronas can acquire Sapura Energy to rescue the firm without costing taxpayers any money.

Najib said Petronas could easily support Sapura via the takeover and sell it off later for a profit once it had been turned around.

Anwar disagreed with Najib, however, and maintained across all three parts of the Sapura section that no bailout or assistance should be extended until a forensic audit is completed to determine the root cause of its financial troubles.

He also rejected Najib’s claim that the Petronas takeover of Sapura would not include public funds.

Cash-strapped Sapura Energy posted a net loss to the tune of RM8.9 billion — its highest ever — for the financial year ended January 31, 2022 (FY22) from a net loss of RM160.87 million for the prior financial year, business paper The Edge reported.

Sapura Energy said it is now undertaking a massive debt restructuring involving banks, vendors and contractors.

Najib has been hailed as a hero by Umno and his supporters after the widely-publicised debate shown live on national television, with the party even hosting a get-together after the event at its headquarters in the World Trade Center Kuala Lumpur.