This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on March 7, 2022 - March 13, 2022
AT a time when regulators have emphasised professional competency and exemplary standards in boardrooms to strengthen corporate governance and interest in the domestic market, the appointment of a 23-year-old Malaysian to the board of four Bursa Malaysia-listed companies in just seven months has prompted questions of what he is bringing to the table.
Bintai Kinden Corp Bhd marked Noor Azri Azerai’s first appointment in July last year at the somewhat tender age of 22 when he was made an executive director. Later that month, Azri acquired three million shares, or a 0.786% stake, in the construction company.
Although it is not unusual for an individual to be appointed a director even though he or she is not a shareholder, most appointed directors bring a wealth of experience or have a strong background in the relevant area, or sit as a proxy for a substantial shareholder.
In the case of Bintai Kinden, few in the corporate world know who Azri is or who he represents, or the kind of expertise he brings to the group as a director.
Bintai Kinden disclosed in a filing with Bursa that Azri graduated with an honours degree in finance, investment and risk from The London Institute of Banking & Finance in 2021.
In other words, he was appointed to the board almost immediately after he obtained his first degree, although, according to Bintai Kinden, Azri had gained some experience in corporate finance, equity investment and commodity derivatives during his internship in 2018 with M&A Securities Sdn Bhd and Maybank Investment Bank Bhd. His experience included initial public offering exercises as well as managing portfolios of high net worth individuals.
What is known of Azri is that he is the son of Datuk Seri Noor Azerai Ahmad — the businessman who wanted to bring a “flying ship” to Malaysia, to be used for civil defence in case of natural disasters such as floods.
In 2015, Noor Azerai reportedly promoted “Multipurpose Wing-In-Ground Effect” aircraft, or WIG, to the then chief minister of Melaka Datuk Seri Idris Haron — the so-called low-altitude cruising craft that can fly at the height of 150m over flat surfaces.
Perhaps entrepreneurship runs in the family, as Azri also founded a UK-based company that invests in private companies in Europe.
Azri also sits on the board of several subsidiary companies of the Bintai Kinden Group, as well as a few other private limited companies in Malaysia and the UK.
At Bintai Kinden, Azri was soon fast-tracked. Three months after he joined — that is, in October last year — he was promoted to the position of deputy CEO. By then, he held 8.92 million shares in the company, or a 2.34% stake.
Based on a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the number of shares acquired so far and at the price disclosed in the announcements to Bursa, Azri would have spent some RM3.75 million.
As at Jan 26, Azri’s shareholding in the company had risen to 10.2 million shares, or 1.54%.
Note that his stake as a percentage of Bintai Kinden’s total issued shares was lower despite the increase in the total number of shares because the group had issued 114.6 million shares at 30 sen apiece on Nov 30, 2021, through a private placement, and 58.54 million shares at 41 sen apiece to acquire Johnson Medical International Sdn Bhd (JMI). Bintai Kinden also issued another 107.2 million shares at 21 sen apiece through a private placement on Jan 3.
About four months after his appointment to the Bintai Kinden board, Azri was appointed as an independent, non-executive director of NWP Holdings Bhd, followed shortly by appointments to the company’s remuneration and nomination committees.
At present, he does not directly own any shares in NWP.
In the same month — on Nov 25 — another appointment awaited him. This time it was to the board of Serba Dinamik Holdings Bhd as an independent, non-executive director. He was also appointed to the group’s nomination and remuneration committees on the same day.
Azri does not directly own any shares in Serba Dinamik, which is currently embroiled in an accounting controversy.
Before the year was over, he was appointed to the board of Malaysian Genomics Resource Centre Bhd (MGRC) as an independent, non-executive director. On Feb 16, he was redesignated as an independent, executive director.
On the same day, he relinquished his position as deputy CEO of Bintai Kinden, but remains as an executive director of the group. Even though his stint as deputy CEO lasted a mere four months, the group credits him with having turned it around.
A day after Azri stepped down as deputy CEO, Bintai Kinden’s wholly-owned subsidiary Bintai Trading Sdn Bhd emerged as a substantial shareholder of MGRC after it acquired 6.25 million shares, or a 5.03% stake, in the genome sequencing and analysis and genetic screening company.
Since Azri was appointed to the boards of the public-listed companies, Noor Azerai’s name has re-emerged. It remains to be seen what this father-and-son team can do to assist in the growth of the public-listed companies in which Azri is a director.
Noor Azerai has not delivered on his previous claims.
For instance, it was previously reported that he had said more than 100 units of the WIG craft had been ordered through his company, Aron Rinani Sdn Bhd. The craft was to be made by Aron Rinani and South Korean company Aron Flying Ship Ltd, which was its technology partner.
Noor Azerai had also claimed that a new plant would be constructed in Teluk Gong, Alor Gajah, Melaka, which would be able to produce 50 units of the craft annually when completed. The project appears not to have taken off, however, as none of the craft seems to be in use.
A check with the Companies Commission of Malaysia shows that Aron Rinani was registered on Feb 13, 2014, and listed the manufacturing and trading of aircraft as its business. The shareholders of Aron Rinani are Noor Azerai with a 70% stake and Aron Flying Ship, the balance of 30%.
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