New man at Utusan’s helm


PETALING JAYA: Former Umno MP Datuk Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir has emerged as the new controlling shareholder of Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Bhd, ending the decades-long direct control of the Malay newspaper group by Umno.

This followed his acquisition of a 31.6% block of shares in Utusan from Umno in a deal worth RM6.65mil.

The deal would consequently result in Umno’s stake in Utusan to drop from 49.77% to 18.17%.

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.

Filings on Bursa Malaysia yesterday showed Aziz had acquired a block of 35 million shares, representing a 31.6% stake, in Utusan via his private vehicle Opulence Asia Sdn Bhd at a huge premium.

Data showed Aziz bought the block of shares 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 due to its financial difficulties.

The company said it is in the midst of formulating a regularisation plan to address its PN17 status.

Utusan continued to suffer losses in the quarter to end-September on lower contribution from its publishing, distribution and advertising business.

It posted a net loss of RM33.9mil, its fourth straight quarterly loss.

Cumulative nine-month losses swelled to RM42.4mil, the company said in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

“The company also submitted the first proposal on a debt-restructuring scheme to the Corporate Debt Restructuring Committee on Oct 26,” it said in a statement on Nov 29.

Prior to the share transaction, Umno was the largest shareholder in Utusan, with 49.77% or 55.11 million shares, while Nilam Setar (M) Sdn Bhd was the second-largest shareholder with 14.76% or 16.34 million shares.

Utusan has been going through a series of initiatives, including staff rationalisation and asset disposal, to restore its ailing financial position after the fall of the Barisan Nasional government last year.

Subsequently, Utusan also saw changes in its 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 at the 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.

Utusan Melayu , Aziz Sheikh Fadzir