Saturday 02 Mar 2024
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KUALA LUMPUR (July 13): The Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) had almost lost control of Pharmaniaga Bhd, its pharmaceutical unit, after some well-connected persons attempted to acquire the company at a significantly discounted valuation through the "highest leadership”, revealed Defence Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan. 

However, he said, he vehemently opposed this and expressed his determination to not only manage and revive Pharmaniaga, but also bring the Boustead group of companies back to its former glory. 

The minister made these comments during the launch of LTAT's strategy for 2023-2025, and emphasised his strong resolve by stating, "Over my dead body." 

“I argued in the Cabinet that Pharmaniaga nearly lost its concession. You can ask [LTAT chief executive] Datuk [Ahmad] Nazim [Abd Rahman]; you may ask an MOF (Ministry of Finance) representative. I am telling you, it is not easy [to safeguard Pharmaniaga],” he told the audience here on Thursday (July 13) after the launch.

“[It was] to the extent that somebody made a bid through the highest leadership, wanting to buy our company at a discounted price; but I said no, over my dead body. Let me manage it, let us manage our companies together, and I am very sure we can rise again. When a coconut tree is bent, even the boar wants to climb it,” he said.

Nonetheless, Tok Mat, as the minister is fondly known, did not reveal the parties involved in the attempted acquisition, nor did he specify the identity of the “highest leadership”. 

“Our investments are good, but the share price is only 50 sen, despite a net asset value of RM1.70. If I don't stop the musical chairs, the whole group will collapse. If we had not privatised Boustead Holdings Bhd, LTAT would be in trouble. Affin Bank would be in trouble,” he said. 

“So, what should we do? Stop the musical chairs, so that this [issue] does not spread. We must contain the issue, so that we can unlock value, and two years later, we (Boustead Holdings) can rise again, [perhaps] to be listed again at RM1.50-RM2.00. Who knows?” he added. 

“There are many assets that require us to unlock their value, and prepare ourselves to relaunch Boustead Holdings, then we can walk tall — no need to walk hunching, feeling ashamed. I do feel ashamed, but we cannot remain like this. We need to rise again, and find a new way. Mindef (the Ministry of Defence) provides billions of dollars of business; [let us] manage it properly,” he added.

Boustead Holdings was privatised last month.

Shares in Pharmaniaga, which is 60%-owned by LTAT through direct shareholdings and Boustead Holdings, halved in February this year, after the company slipped into Practice Note 17 status following a massive impairment that resulted in negative shareholders’ equity.

The pharmaceutical company closed unchanged at 38.5 sen a share on Thursday, giving it a market capitalisation of RM504.43 million.

Edited ByIsabelle Francis
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