PETALING JAYA: Umno has lost direct control of Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Bhd after 31.6% stake of the company's shares changed hands on Friday (Feb 8).
It is understood that former Kulim-Bandar Baharu MP Datuk Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir was the buyer of the block of shares from Umno.
Following the sale, Umno’s stake in Utusan would drop from 49.77% to 18.17%, ending the decades-long control of the Malay newspaper group by a political party.
Abd Aziz is currently the executive chairman of Utusan.
He was re-appointed to the post early this month, following the expiry of his previous tenure in the group, which spanned six months from June 7, 2018, until Dec 13, 2018.
According to stock market data, a block of 35 million shares in Utusan crossed at a huge premium on Friday.
That block represented a 31.6% stake in the company based on its paid-up capital of 110.73 million shares.
Data showed the block of shares was sold at 19 sen per unit, which was 7.5 sen, or 65.2%, higher than Utusan’s last closing market price of 11.5 sen.
Utusan, which has been chalking up losses, was classified as a Practice Note 17 (PN17) company in August last year.
PN17 companies are referred to as financially-distressed entities which need to submit their proposals to Bursa Malaysia to restructure and revive themselves to maintain listing status.
The group has been going through a series of initiatives, including staff rationalisation and asset disposal, to restore its ailing financial position after the fall of Barisan Nasional in last year’s general election.
With Umno no longer part of the federal government, changes took place in Utusan’s board.
This included the stepping down of Tan Sri Mohamad Fatmi Che Salleh as non-executive chairman and Datuk Seri Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad and Jamalul Kiram Mohd Zakaria as independent non-executive directors in May last year.
Utusan had long-term and short-term debts of RM137.8mil, while cash stood at RM13mil as of end of September 2018.
Of its debts, the short-term obligation was RM54.3mil.
However, Utusan has investment assets in its books of RM89.7mil and also property, plant and equipment valued at RM196.3mil.
In recent months, Utusan had been vocal against former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and some Umno leaders.
There had been an increasing call for the newspaper to be de-politicised and for it to remain as a voice of reason for the Malays.