Syed Mokhtar’s debts raising fear of future bailout, says Tony Pua

Hafidz Baharom, The Malaysian Insider

The combined debt of RM34.3 billion accrued by companies owned by Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary is causing genuine fears of a bailout using taxpayers’ money, the DAP’s Tony Pua said today.

The Petaling Jaya Utara MP told reporters that his attempt to raise the issue in Parliament was thwarted when the Speaker rejected his question to the Finance Ministry on the basis that his query was based on assumptions.

“If a group of companies owe RM34.3 billion, when one entity cannot pay its debt, the ability of all the companies to pay their debts will be affected.

“In 1997, the government had to bail out companies, they had to buy out the LRT, give a loan to Tan Sri Halim Saad who had to pull of a corporate exercise and this led to RM3.2 billion not paid back,” Pua said, referring to the collapse of the Renong Group during the financial crisis in 1997.

Pua said he regretted that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is also finance minister, chose not to answer his question in Parliament today as the debt also raises the risk of a financial crisis.

“His (Syed Mokhtar) companies owe RM34.3 billion, more than 10 per cent of the national corporate debt; Renong owed about RM20 billion, which was only 8 per cent.

“This is a serious matter and a threat to the finance and banking industry of this country,” Pua said.

Syed Mokhtar has holdings in hotelier Tradewinds, MMC Corporation and earlier this year won the bid to privatise Penang Port which sparked criticism on both sides of the political aisle.

Barisan Nasional (BN) Backbenchers Club deputy chief Bung Mokhtar Radin has said that “Syed Mokhtar is like a king with so many banks backing him.”