Khazanah Nasional Bhd has bought an additional 23.9 million shares, or 4.2% equity interest, in Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd (Proton), a move that will trigger a mandatory general offer (MGO) for the remaining shares it does not own in the national carmaker.
A Proton filing with MSEB on Tuesday said that Khazanah purchased the stake on March 11 from an undisclosed vendor for an undisclosed price.
Proton shares were traded between RM9.65 and RM9.70 that day. Yesterday, Proton gained 10 sen to RM9.30 on volume of 468,000 shares.
On March 8, Mitsubishi Motors Corp offered to sell its entire stake of 44 million shares, or 7.9%, in Proton through a book-building exercise. The shares were taken up the same day.
Under the Malaysian Code on Takeovers and Mergers, an existing shareholder will trigger an MGO if the total stake held in a company exceeds 33% of its paid-up capital.
Khazanah chief executive officer Datuk Anwar Aji did not return calls from StarBiz, but it is understood that the government investment arm would apply for a waiver from having to make an MGO.
Analysts are puzzled by Khazanah's purchase, given the fact the national asset management company had earlier turned down an offer from Mitsubishi Motors for its entire 7.9% stake in Proton.
“It will spur more speculation, especially after Khazanah refused the offer in the first place,” the head of research of a local stockbroking house said.
The purchase increased the government investment arm's stake in Proton to 34.8% from 30.5%, the filing said.
Mitsubishi Motors has been Proton's technology partner for more than 19 years.
Last week, Khazanah denied suggestions that it intended to buy the Proton shares from Mitsubishi Motors, but conceded that a purchase could trigger an MGO.
An analyst said there could have been very few buyers for the stake that Mitsubishi Motors wanted to dispose of, and so Khazanah had to step in.
The additional stake would make little difference to Khazanah as it already had management control of Proton, the analyst said.
However, he said, the larger stake would make it easier for Khazanah to find a new technology partner for the carmaker after the departure of Mitsubishi Motors.
Currently, Mitsubishi Motors' parent company, Mitsubishi Corp, still holds a 7.9% stake in Proton, which it has not decided whether to sell.
Proton has progressively reduced its dependence on Mitsubishi after having worked closely with the Japanese carmaker since its incorporation in 1983.
Since 2000, Proton has come up with its own designs, such as the Waja, and in February, it launched the Proton GEN.2, which it completely designed.
Proton's launch of the GEN.2 is more than a major engineering breakthrough for the national car manufacturer. It also marks the start of a long and arduous journey to prove its credibility in the international arena.
The GEN.2 is fitted with Proton's own Campro engine using Lotus technology – a move to cut costs as previous models using Mitsubishi engines required royalty payments.
Data from Proton showed that it paid over RM1.2bil to Mitsubishi Motors and Mitsubishi Corp in the year ended March 31, 2003.