Asia Malaysia Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary increases stake in Umno's Malay-language newspaper

Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary increases stake in Umno’s Malay-language newspaper

Nilam Setar acquired an additional 5.5 million shares, increasing its stake in the group to 19.72 per cent

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After buying over a larger share in the Media Prima Group, Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary made another move in acquiring more shares in the Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Bhd group.

A company linked to Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary now holds more shares than Umno in the struggling newspaper group. It is now the second-largest shareholder of the Malay-language based publisher.

Utusan was always seen as a pro-government newspaper under the Barisan Nasional regime. It has struggled for years now with business failing and readership dwindling.

Last year, the Umno-controlled media group Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Bhd offered voluntary separation schemes (VSS) to more than half of its 1,500 workers as part of a restructuring exercise.

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Pressed to reduce overall costs due to the company’s financial constraints, the company decided to sell stakes to Nilam Setar (M) Sdn Bhd.

Nilam Setar acquired an additional 5.5 million shares, increasing its stake in the group to 19.72 per cent. Opulence Global Asia Sdn Bhd, controlled by Umno politician Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir has a 31.6 per cent stake in the company.

Malaysiakini says Umno’s direct stake – held through trustee RHB Nominees (Tempatan) Sdn Bhd – is 18.2 percent.

The local portal says Syed Mokhtar is on the path to becoming Malaysia’s media czar, having accumulated shares in several media outlets.

Sources say he already has full control of the Malaysian Reserve newspaper, and a rumoured 23.9 percent stake in Media Prima Bhd, the television stations, newspapers, billboard companies and websites owner.

Syed Mokhtar is also known for his close association with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Media Prima is a public listed media company where Umno had an 11.09% stake. The party sold the stake to Syed Mokhtar, making him the third-largest shareholder.

A group linked to Syed Mokhtar last month denied buying shares in Media Prima.

Media Prima owns four free-to-air television channels and newspaper publisher the New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Bhd. During Barisan Nasional’s rule, the NST has always been associated with the Umno, people used to call it the ‘English Umno paper’.

In a report dated June 2018, Hong Leong Bank said, “Under the former government, Media Prima was ultimately controlled by BN. In fact, group managing director Datuk Kamal Khalid even ran the communications unit in the Prime Minister’s Office.” -/TISG

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