Mitsui share purchase shows investors’ confidence in Malaysia, says Tony Pua

Pantai Hospital, Kuala Lumpur, is part of the IHH Healthcare group now controlled by Mitsui of Japan. (www.pantai.com.my pic)

PETALING JAYA: Damansara MP Tony Pua has described the purchase of IHH Healthcare Bhd by Mitsui of Japan from Khazanah Nasional Bhd as a significant move demonstrating confidence and trust placed by foreign investors in Malaysian companies and the economy.

In a statement today Pua defended the finance minister’s characterisation of the share purchase as an example of foreign direct investment – a position that was mocked by former prime minister Najib Razak last week.

Pua, who is political secretary to finance minister Lim Guan Eng, said the interpretation of the term “foreign direct investment” had not changed and was described in a manual of the International Monetary Fund.

“Hence Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng is correct to state that the country achieved the historical high realised FDI in a quarter in the first quarter of 2019,” said Pua, Bernama reported.

On Saturday, Najib had decried the finance ministry’s interpretation, saying that the “foreign investment” referred to was in actuality a reference to purchase of shares in government-linked companies.

Lim had said the Malaysia had realised an FDI of RM21.7 billion in the first quarter of this year, comprising RM8.4 billion from Japan; RM3.7 billion from Austria and RM2.8 billion from Hong Kong.

But Najib said the RM8.4 billion represented the proceeds from the sale of Khazanah Nasional’s stake in IHH Healthcare Berhad to Mitsui & Co Ltd, while the RM3.7 billion represented the purchase of a 50% stake in Sapura Upstream Sdn Bhd by OMV Exploration & Production GmbH of Austria. Sapura Upstream is fully-owned by Sapura Energy Bhd, in which Permodalan Nasional Bhd held a 40% stake.

The two sales were made last year but the money received only this year, Najib said.

Pua said the “realised foreign direct investment” was made up of high-quality investments, and that international investors’ interest in Malaysia had increased since the change of government a year ago.

He also recalled that during Najib’s premiership in 2017, Petroliam Nasional Bhd had sold 50% of its stake in the Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project in Pengerang, Johor, to Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Aramco at US$7 billion.