05 September 2014

All is not well at KTMB, is it heading MAS’ way?

FOCUS: Our good old Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has been hogging both the domestic and international media limelight for all the wrong reasons.
Its failed operations and management, resulting in an accumulation of more than RM10 billion in debts in 10 years, have stripped MAS bare.
The federal government, via Khazanah Nasional Bhd, is forced to take MAS private and come up with RM6 billion bailout to save the ailing national airline.
It is the fourth such bailout for the 76-year-old MAS since 2007. Not only that. Some 6,000 MAS employees need to be retrenched in the revamp exercise to keep MAS afloat.
Now, there is another financial nightmare in the making. It is called Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB).
The Railwaymen’s Union of Malaya (RUM) reportedly confirmed that KTMB had sacked two top union leaders and the fate of 110 railwaymen is hanging in the balance.
The 110, who are believed to have received show cause letters from KTMB, had participated in a May 9 picket. The sacked are RUM president Abdul Razak Md Hassan and his deputy R. Subramaniam.
Abdul Razak
The duo are believed to have received their termination letters from KTMB on Aug 29. Twelve other RUM members are also reported to have been hauled up for a KTMB disciplinary inquiry.
The picket was staged by about 700 RUM members to pressure KTMB president Datuk Elias Kadir to step down.
A 2011 audit showed that KTMB suffered RM100 million in losses which ballooned to RM280 million in 2012.
MKTMB recorded RM1.45 billion in accumulative net losses up to 2008 as reported by the media and is unable to pay back its own operational costs and loans, according to the Auditor-General’s Report 2009.
KTMB had even proposed to the Finance Ministry to convert the loans into government equities (read as bailout).
KTMB had also forwarded its restructuring plans in April 2009 and it was endorsed by the Finance Ministry in September 2009.
In February, the media reported that the government had rejected a Malaysian Mining Corp Bhd (MMC)-Gamuda Bhd take-over of KTMB operations.
Business Times had in January reported that a privatisation was in the works by MMC (controlled by Albukhary Foundation) and Gamuda to formalise an agreement for a proposed RM5 billion takeover.
However, KTMB has assets and land worth an estimated RM50 billion!
KTMB, in the business of providing freight, intercity and commuter train services, among others, had been in the red since its corporatisation in August 1992.
It reported making profits of between RM9 million to RM15 million from 1993 to 1995, but sunk into the red again.
Is KTMB the next government-linked company to go the MAS way?