Najib blames Mahathir for FGV's woes

Modified 21 Feb 2019, 6:15 am

Former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak has accused Dr Mahathir Mohamad of contributing to FGV Holding Bhd's current problems by cutting Felda funding back in 1996.

Najib said Mahathir, at the time the fourth prime minister, had forced Felda to find its own funds instead of relying on the federal government. This, Najib claimed, prevented Felda from planting new oil palm trees.

"Eventually, oil palm trees became old. When I was prime minister, the yield per hectare reduced for the first time in history. Even the welfare of Felda settlers was ignored.

"They urged me to take proactive measures, which were to borrow funds and list FGV on the stock market to finance large-scale replanting costs, and to help the welfare of settlers.

"Had I not done so, the plants would have aged and yield would have dropped, leading to Felda's possible disappearance in one or two decades," Najib wrote on Facebook today.

FGV is an investment holding company which was listed on Bursa Malaysia in 2012, raising RM10 billion in what was the biggest initial public offering (IPO) in the world that year, second only to Facebook's.

However, FGV's stock price has been on the downtrend since it was listed. It is currently down 74.6 percent of the RM4.55 IPO price.

Current FGV chairperson Azhar Abdul Hamid said in a statement to shareholders last month that FGV suffered from poor management, the lacklustre performances of joint ventures and non-core businesses, as well as replanting costs for aged trees.

Referring to Azhar's statement, Najib focused only on the replanting costs, explaining that it had reduced FGV's revenue because the saplings took five years to mature.

"It caused a big impact on FGV's profits in the early years after listing. The reward of going through the difficult years will only be realised in the future.

"It is very cruel to slander me on Felda and FGV issues because my real intention was to resolve legacy problems not caused by me and to save Felda and look after the interest of the settlers," he said.

In November, FGV filed a suit against 14 former directors or executives to recover RM514 million in losses it claimed was due to the acquisition of Asian Plantation Limited (APL) in 2014, a deal which many analysts said was overpriced.

FGV accused those named of failing to discharge their respective fiduciary duties, duties of fidelity and/or duties to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence.

The company also sued its former chairperson - Mohd Isa Samad who was appointed to the position by Najib - over the company's acquisition of luxury condominiums that were also allegedly above market value.

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