The way I see the CIMB-Southern Bank saga going, I cannot help thinking in terms of subtle nationalisation since it involves Khazanah, our so-called national treasure in government investment holdings.
With the involvement of a national corporation and relatives of top leaders in CIMB and ECM Libra respectively, nothing can stop them.
We can forget about fair price as there is no chance for a competitor to come in at all. I am sure this sends a message to all investors, both local and foreign, present and future, that they have to beware of unwanted attention from national predators looking for easy meat.
It is the easiest way to show growth and rising returns. It can help mask unfavourable non- performing loans (NPLs) of existing entities too.
The thing about NPLs is that the way it is provided in the accounts would have involved subjective judgement. Who is to decide whether an NPL is recoverable in the future? Just a RM1 billion extra provision in NPLs could have wiped out favourable profit for the year.
Besides the changes that are likely to be instituted by the new board of directors, who are mostly merely trustees of national investments in this case, there is the question of the loyalty of key executives and major customers of the bank being taken over.
Will they remain as though nothing happened? Only time will tell.