Bernas takeover to proceed


(FMT) – The opposition failed in its bid to question the proposed acquisition of Padiberas Nasional Berhad (Bernas) by tycoon Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhari.

The House rejected two back-to-back motions filed by Gooi Hseui Leung (PKR-Alor Setar) and Anwar Ibrahim (PKR-Permatang Pauh) yesterday on the grounds that it was unimportant.

Gooi and Anwar urged the government to intervene in Bernas’ plan to delist itself from the Bursa on Friday (March 21), saying that Syed Mokhtar’s monopoly over the national rice firm without public scrutiny would pose a potential danger to the nation’s food security.

At a press conference at the Parliament lobby, Anwar said that today is the closing date for Bernas’ minority shareholders to consider a buyout offer by Syed Mokhtar’s companies.

The joint-offerers, Perspective Lane (M) Sdn Bhd, Kelana Ventures Sdn Bhd, Seaport Terminal Sdn Bhd, Acara Kreatif Sdn Bhd and Tradewinds Bhd, had on March 14 informed Bursa Malaysia that they had already obtained more than the 90% stake of Bernas required to execute a compulsory acquisition.

The companies said they plan to delist Bernas from the Bursa and trading will be suspended on Friday (March 21).

Anwar said the privatisation was done at the expense of fishermen and peasants, who used to control a 10% stake each in Bernas through the National Peasants Association (Nafas) and the National Fishermen’s Association (Nekmat).

“The agriculture minister has pledged that privatisation of Bernas can continue, and the peasants’ welfare will be protected via a 5% stake given to Nafas and Nekmat after the takeover exercise. But now the promise has been broken,” said Anwar.

Gooi said that the minister had also told Parliament that Bernas will undergo a restructuring exercise and be re-listed on the Bursa at a later date. Bernas has denied such a plan.

“Bernas is a national strategic asset and should not be handed to profit-oriented individuals or companies,” Gooi added.

More to gain from sale

Speaking to reporters later, Agriculture Minister Ismail Sabri said the ministry was not concerned about Bernas’ delisting from the Bursa as long as the peasants’ welfare is taken care of.

He said acquirers of Bernas have signed a covenant with the government promising, among other things, to safeguard the millers’ interests and increase productivity.

“We don’t care about its business decision as long as the covenant still stands,” he said.

Ismail Sabri added that Nafas gained more from the sale of its 5% Bernas shares.

“Nafas used to have a paid-up capital of only RM200,000 but after selling the shares, they raked in RM67 million. So rather than continue to hold a 5% stake, they might as well sell it,” he said.