Monday, April 30, 2012

What's Next for MAS - AIRASIA

WHAT now for MAS? Chances are that the speculation is true, that the Malaysia Airlines(MAS)-AirAsia Bhd swap is being unwound as we speak, with an official announcement out soon.
Collaboration between the two will be maintained, so the theory goes. If so, while AirAsia will continue to get on with its business of providing low-cost connectivity, what will happen to MAS?
Assuming the share-swap agreement wasn't the best fix for MAS, going by those who denounce it, the million dollar (or in MAS' case, the billion dollar) question is, what's it going to take to turn this company around?
Previous suggestions by this writer included flogging it off to the highest bidder. That must remain an option for its largest shareholder, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which had only recently successfully divested its holdings in another problematic company, Proton Holdings Bhd. But selling MAS won't work if there aren't any takers or the bids aren't high enough.
It will also be interesting to see if MAS does revert to any of the thinking that went on when the share swap was envisaged, namely to focus on the premium market. Other national airlines seem to have made some progress in that direction, such as British Airways and Singapore Airlines.
File picture shows MAS and AirAsia aircraft at KLIA.
Will MAS, with its large staff count and widespread business areas, be able to morph that way? Will it be able to change to meet the rising competition or will there be too much resistance?
Also, it will be interesting to see what rationale is put forward if and when the unwinding of the share swap is announced. It may be that anti-competitive concerns may be the stated rationale, although word on the street is that the decision is more related to the wishes of some quarters within MAS.
If the latter is true, one really wonders if this group of people have any answer on how to fix MAS. It is hoped they or someone else does, because if no plan comes up fast, this company could be nose-diving into more financial trouble if not bankruptcy.
And that must surely mean huge pay cuts or worse, retrenchments.
Hence, those who will be pleased with any decision to unwind the share swap should be just as enthusiastic about what's next for MAS, because left alone, its future may be even more dicey.

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