KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today dismissed reports indicating the sale of Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB).

He said no questions were raised on foreign parties acquiring MAHB.

“Who brought about this question of selling? The question was not raised at all.

“The president, chief executive officer are Malaysians, so is the entire operations of MAHB, they are all Malaysians,” Anwar said during the Prime Minister’s Question Time in the Dewan Rakyat.

He said with Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) on board, the share ownership of Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Employee Provident Fund’s (EPF) has increased from 41 per cent to 70 per cent.

Anwar was replying to Umno’s Paya Besar MP Datuk Mohd Shahar Abdullah who asked the prime minister to clarify the decision made by a consortium of government-linked investment companies on the sale of MAHB shares to GIP.

“All this time, foreign companies own about 27 per cent of MAHB’s shares and these have been taken over by Adia and GIP. These are the facts that I want to clarify,” Anwar said.

Adia is the acronym for the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

“Are we selling MAHB? No. This exercise one involves the company that manages airports, the airport is still owned by the Malaysian government.

“This is similar to how MAHB is given permission by the Turkish government to manage the Istanbul International Airport. We have been given the rights to manage but ownership of the airport still belongs to the Turkish government,” Anwar said.

He added that the exercise is different from the government selling a part of Malaysia to Zionist-ruled countries like Israel.

“I accept these criticisms, but please base them on facts.

“So in this exercise, why was GIP chosen? According to EPF, their negotiations with GIP had started in 2012 with Malaysian companies, because EPF with GIP has worked together on Sydney International Airport and the London Gatwick Airport,” Anwar said.

Anwar said that while it is known that GIP will be acquired by BlackRock Inc, the former company had issued an official statement and given an assurance that the acquisition will not affect its involvement with MAHB.

“In the current state of the market in Malaysia, BlackRock Inc owns RM25.5 billion worth of shares including Tenaga Nasional Bernard, Telekom Malaysia, Petronas and there is RM7 billion in government and corporate bonds.

“But we are being ‘attacked’ now, including by our friends on the other side. They have forgotten that this important decision to give Blackrock a role started in 2021, February 26,” he said.

He cited a decision made in 2021 when Pagoh MP Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was prime minister and the latter’s Cabinet chose to “hand over EPF’s Separate Managed Account and Shariah private equity to BlackRock”.

“Congratulations! The amount was US$600 million, that is RM2.5 billion.

“I defended that decision, I don’t want to politicise the situation because perhaps EPF at the time had reported to Pagoh or the Cabinet that this is just an investment company.

“Was it that BlackRock didn’t voice their support for Israel then? They already had been doing so.

“But in the case of MAHB, there was never any negotiations. Not like in 2021, whereby EPF had direct negotiations with BlackRock Inc. In 2023 EPF and Khazanah had negotiations with GIP not involving BlackRock Inc,” Anwar said.

He reiterated that the situation is different from the impression given to the public.

“Don’t forget, in 2021 to 2022, Israel-owned companies were still allowed to operate in Malaysia, while in 2023 the Cabinet decided that no Israel-owned companies will be allowed to operate in Malaysia,” he said.

He maintained that the Cabinet does not interfere in the investment matters of EPF, Khazanah or even Permodalan Nasional Berhad since these GLCs do not refer to the executive arm of government before making decisions.

He added that the same was true even before the Pakatan Harapan-led coalition government came to power.

“But in this case, I will inform them when the negotiations have been completed, so it is normal that if you hear that Cabinet members say they are not aware of this,” Anwar said when Payar Besar MP Datuk Mohd Shahar Abdullah asked why such major decisions were not raised to the Cabinet. Anwar was also asked if there were no other options to choose from apart from GIP and said only five fulfilled the criteria and conditions set by Khazanah, out of 145 companies that were interested.

“The conditions set by Khazanah are strict, which were not agreed by many. Firstly, the president and chief executive officer must be a Malaysian, the majority of stakes owned must be Malaysian.

“The companies that were interested, be it Singapore or other countries, they want the rights to manage, meaning the chief executive office is of their nationality or they get to decide on this.

“These conditions were not accepted. That is why GIP was accepted. According to Khazanah it is difficult to work with foreign companies that did not accept the terms set,” Anwar said.

On June 21, GIP had reiterated that BlackRock Inc has not in any way been involved in the transaction relating to MAHB.

GIP reportedly said that while it will be acquired by BlackRock Inc by the third quarter of 2024, it said that BlackRock recognises GIP’s expertise in infrastructure investment.

The plan for GIP and Adiato take over 30 per cent of MAHB’s shares came under criticism and protests from several ruling and Opposition lawmakers who are strong supporters of Palestinians, over GIP’s ties to BlackRock Inc’s significant investments in Israel.