Utusan may be relaunched in future, says its executive chairman

Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo! ceased publication today.

PETALING JAYA: Utusan Malaysia may be relaunched in the near future, according to Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd executive chairman Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir.

In an exclusive interview with theedgemarkets.com, he said the holding company is being liquidated.

But he said the ownership of the printing licences had been acquired by Aurora Mulia Sdn Bhd and the publications may be relaunched.

Utusan Malaysia, the oldest Malay-language newspaper in the country, wound down operations today, with the 800 employees told to clear out their belongings.

They have been told that liquidators had taken over the building and they would be called again for a briefing on Oct 30 to know their future.

They have yet to receive termination letters and will be considered as working until the end of this month.

Aurora Mulia is linked to businessman Syed Mokhtar AlBukhary. He has a 31.22% shareholding in listed media group Media Prima Bhd.

Aziz said it would be up to the new shareholder to decide whether to re-employ the workers.

The decision today to cease publication and operations came as a shock as Utusan Melayu had said on Sunday that it had sold a 70% interest in its subsidiary, Dilof Sdn Bhd, to Aurora Mulia for an undisclosed sum. The sale had been to ensure the continuity of Utusan Malaysia and the 15-year-old Kosmo!

Dilof is the holding vehicle for the printing licences and archives of Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo!.

Aziz said the change in ownership of the licences had been approved by the home ministry in early October.

The theedgemarkets.com said a check with the Companies Commission of Malaysia showed that Dilof was renamed as Media Mulia Sdn Bhd from Monday, a day after the acquisition.

In September 2018, Utusan Melayu offered a voluntary separation scheme (VSS) to its 1,500-strong workforce at the time.

The Utusan Malaysia’s newsstand price was also increased by 50 sen to RM2 starting Aug 23. The price for Kosmo! was also increased by 50 sen to RM1.50.

On Aug 30, Utusan Melayu shares were delisted from Bursa Malaysia.

The theedgemarkets.com said the company had earlier fallen into Bursa’s PN17 status on Aug 20, 10 days after defaulting on principal and profit payment totalling RM1.18 million to Maybank Islamic Bhd and Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd.

As at June 30, 2019, Utusan Melayu’s total unaudited liabilities stood at RM392.32 million, which included RM139.06 million in short-term borrowings.

In contrast, its assets totalled RM293.15 million, of which RM233.76 million were classified as held for sale. It had RM9.7 million cash as of June 30, the theedgemarkets.com said.

Utusan Malaysia’s National Union of Journalists branch blamed the Utusan Melayu closure, which it said affected 862 people, on Umno’s interference in the past.

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said today the party now only held a small share in the company and could not do much to help the staff as its bank accounts had been frozen by the Pakatan Harapan government.