KUALA LUMPUR: The New Straits Times and Utusan Malaysia merger deal has been sent back to the drawing board hours after Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called for the tradition and histories of the newspapers to be maintained.
Sources said several party supreme council members voiced their concern over the deal and also the long connection between the party and Utusan Malaysia.
They told the meeting they feared that any merger which could affect the identity of the Malay daily would backfire on the party, although Umno would continue to control it.
It was learnt that the negotiators were told of the council’s concern later and decided to take a re-look at the deal.
Media Prima, the parent company of NSTP, had originally scheduled a press conference on Monday to announce the deal but that function is expected to be called off.
Earlier, at a press conference after the council meeting, Abdullah, who confirmed that the companies were in merger talks, said it was important for the newspapers to continue maintaining their roles, identities, traditions and histories after the merger.
“It is not about the financial aspect of the merger. It is about the image, history and tradition of each of the newspapers. It is not easy to forget the pride of newspapers that had survived through time.”
Trading in New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Bhd and Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Bhd shares was voluntarily suspended from Bursa Malaysia yesterday amid speculation of the proposed merger.
Yesterday, NSTP rose one sen to RM2.94 with 1.28 million shares traded. Utusan took a nine-sen dip to RM1.83 with 2.68 million shares changing hands.
On the merger of the country’s palm oil companies, Abdullah said the move had been carefully planned.
“Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB), the major shareholder of the three companies, would have no problem accepting the merger. It is a good business move that had been carefully considered for the three companies to be consolidated into a big entity,” he told reporters after the Umno Supreme Council meeting here yesterday.
Abdullah, who is also the Finance Minister, said the merger would create a world-class plantation company.
Sime Darby, Kumpulan Guthrie and Golden Hope and their subsidiaries would be merged into a single entity called Synergy Drive Sdn Bhd.
Synergy Drive is formed by financial advisor CIMB to facilitate the RM31bil merger involving nine companies.
The merged entity would own 600,000ha of oil palm plantations with a production capacity of nine million tonnes of fresh fruit bunches and 2.5 million tonnes of palm oil.
The National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJ) is concerned over the proposed merger, Bernama reported.
Its general secretary Hong Boon How said the union was disappointed that the managements of both companies had not briefed their workers and the union on the matter.