NEW YORK: Malaysia may list a Petronas subsidiary on Bursa Malaysia to attract more investors to the local stock market, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.
Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd, the upstream unit of the Fortune 500 national oil company, is one possibility but there are also other candidates, he added.
At a dialogue with fund managers at JP Morgan’s headquarters here yesterday, the prime minister was told that many investors believe listing Petronas or Carigali would give a boost to the local bourse.
“We’re looking at that as one of the possibilities, but at the moment we felt that selling Petronas shares is not going to be good because we need Petronas to support the government. Maybe at a later stage we could consider that.
“But what we agreed is to look at the subsidiaries. We may sell off the shares of the subsidiaries because that will not affect Petronas that much. One of them is Carigali, but there are also a few others,” he said.
Market talk about the listing of Carigali has resurfaced several times over the years, but nothing concrete materialised. In 2010, analysts estimated the exploration and production unit of Petronas could potentially have a market capitalisation of RM150 billion.
Asked if the government would also encourage Khazanah Nasional Bhd to continue selling down its shareholding in government linked companies (GLCs), Dr Mahathir said the government would want to retain some control of certain strategic industries which give good returns.
“We’ve always believed that government should not be in business. We’re not good at it. It is better for business to be done by business people. This is still our policy and we are selling off many of the companies which are owned by Khazanah.”
On the government’s promise in its election manifesto to pay 20 per cent oil royalty to Sabah and Sarawak, Dr Mahathir said the figure needs to be reviewed to avoid jeopardising Petronas.
“There were many things stated in the manifesto which was due to lack of knowledge of the actual problem. Now that we’re in the government, we’re discovering that if you give 20 per cent to the two states, then Petronas will no longer become the international oil company that it is.
“We have to appeal to the Sabah and Sarawak governments that it is really not workable. They are also very concerned. They don’t want to kill Petronas but at the same time they want more money. So we’re trying to work out how we can give them more money without undermining Petronas’ own strength,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said Petronas is the biggest financier for the government through dividends and taxes paid, which is used to help pay off the country’s debts.
On what investors can expect from the 2020 Budget to be tabled next month, the prime minister said the government’s new Shared Prosperity Vision will feature prominently in economic planning from now on.
“We want to have shared prosperity between town and country, between state and state, between different races and between rich and poor. The disparities must be reduced and this must be reflected in the next budget. That means, of course, that we will give less to the more prosperous and more to the less prosperous,” he added.