Khazanah hires Morgan Stanley for Malaysia Airlines strategy

KUALA LUMPUR: Khazanah Nasional Bhd has hired Morgan Stanley to explore strategic options for Malaysia Airlines Bhd, the nation’s loss-making flagship carrier, according to people familiar with the matter.

The investment bank will be responsible for looking at options for the airline, including a potential stake sale, said the people who asked not to be named as the discussions are private.

Khazanah, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund and the sole shareholder of the airline, aims to get a deal done by the end of this year, one of the people said. Discussions are ongoing and details including timeline could still change, the people said.

Khazanah is working on the way forward for Malaysia Airlines, including evaluating all strategic options to revive its performance, the sovereign wealth fund said in an emailed response to Bloomberg News. A representative for Malaysia Airlines declined to comment, referring the matter to Khazanah. A representative for Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

Malaysia Airlines has been seeking to transform itself since Khazanah took it private in 2014 following two tragic incidents – one of its planes vanished over the Indian Ocean and another was shot down over Ukraine. While revenues have been rising over the past year, overcapacity in Asia and external volatility including the trade war between the US and China are expected to continue to hamper growth, the company said in June.

Khazanah asked Malaysia Airlines to come up with a strategic plan in February to help it compete in the aviation industry and deliver better returns after it missed two profitability deadlines. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said this month that the government is studying four proposals it received for the airline from local investors.

While Mahathir has said the carrier still faces the possibility of being shut down as the government seeks to save money, he also emphasised that he wants the airline to recover and keep “Malaysia” in its name. He also acknowledged that turning the company around without laying off staff – a key issue for the government – is difficult.