Tengku Zafrul defends BlackRock’s involvement in MAHB

The investment, trade and industry minister questions where the line should be drawn, citing that the US company also has a stake in Apple.

(FMT) – Investment, trade and industry minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz has defended the government’s decision to allow BlackRock, a firm with alleged links to Israel, to own shares in Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB).

Critics of the decision were against the participation of BlackRock, through its fully owned subsidiary Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), in a consortium with Khazanah Nasional Bhd and EPF that will acquire all the shares in MAHB.

They claim that although GIP and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) will own only 30% of the equity, it nevertheless allows BlackRock entry into the management and ownership of 39 airports in Malaysia.

The critics also accused BlackRock, a New York City-based investment firm, of “profiteering from genocide” through its stakes in US defence companies which allegedly manufacture weapons used by Israel.

Tengku Zafrul, however, stressed that BlackRock is a listed company that is not owned by Israelis.

He pointed out that sovereign wealth funds from Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar also have stakes in BlackRock’s shareholding.

He also highlighted that BlackRock is one of the Apple’s largest shareholders.

“All of you who own Apple (products), if you really feel strongly, you shouldn’t be using them. Who is the biggest shareholder of WhatsApp? Who is the biggest shareholder of Facebook?

“So, where do we draw the line? As a policy, where do we draw the line?” he said during the Madani Economy Townhall at Universiti Malaya today, when asked to clarify the MAHB privatisation deal.

Tengku Zafrul said it is important for the government to explain the merits of the deal, “and I think they have done that”.

“But, of course, maybe we can do more.To me, we need to look at it holistically,” he said.

Khazanah had previously given an assurance that GIP, as its consortium partner, will not have a hand in the management of MAHB when the deal is finalised.

Several Perikatan Nasional leaders, including Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal and Afnan Hamimi Taib Azamudden, have urged Putrajaya to halt the sale of MAHB shares to GIP.

Former DAP MP Ong Kian Ming also called for the government, Khazanah and EPF to hold a press conference and explain the deal as soon as possible rather than allow the opposition the opportunity to “control the narrative” at the next parliamentary meeting.