(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): A lot of confusion reigns over the statement by the Securities Commission executive chairman Datuk Dr. Munir Majid that the Securities Commission would wait for the United Engineers Bhd's (UEM) extraordinary general meeting of shareholders to ratify the company's plan to buy 32.6 per cent of its parent Renong Bhd., before deciding on whether it should make a general offer for remaining Renong shares.
After the Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had made his Ministerial statement in Parliament on Monday on the emergency financial package to deal with the economic crisis, Munir was interviewed by reporters where he said: "If the shareholders approve it, then the commission will study the waiver given (by the Foreign Investment Committee) on whether UEM complied with the regulation".
This is a contradiction of the announcement by the Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who had announced the withdrawal of the waiver in his Ministerial statement in Parliament on 25th November on the UEM-Renong deal as UEM together with Renong chief Tan Sri Halim Saad and associated company Time Engineering Bhd would hold a combined 76.9 per cent stake in Renong.
It does not inspire confidence when the various government authorities cannot give a clear-cut answer on a simple issue as to whether the waiver granted to UEM to make a mandatory general offer to minority shareholders had been withdrawn as announced by Anwar in Parliament, or whether the waiver still stands.
I had asked this question to the Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Dr. Affifuddin Othman during the winding-up of the debate on the Finance Bill (No. 2) 1997 yesterday, but Affifudin was unable to give a clear-cut statement, referring weakly to Anwar's statement but not prepared to take a strong stand and contradict Munir.
Why are the various government authorities so ambiguous about whether the waiver given to UEM from making a mandatory general offer to Renong minority shareholders had been revoked or whether it still stands?
The picture has become even more cloudy with the pronouncement by the Economic Adviser to Government, Tun Daim Zainuddin, who clearly disagree with Anwar Ibrahim on this issue. Yesterday, he said that the UEM-Renong deal was a private sector matter which was not linked to the government and that he had no interest in it.
However, this did not prevent Daim from commenting that UEM's stake is below the 33 per cent trigger for mandatory general offer, and that approval was given to UEM on its own and not in concert with other interested parties.
Calling it a "matter of interpretation", Daim admitted that if related interests like those of Renong chief, Tan Sri Halim Saad's are taken into account, then the stake would exceed the trigger point of 33 per cent. Parliament and the country are entitled to know which "interpretation" has prevailed in government, that of Anwar or Daim, whether Daim had overruled Anwar on this issue, and this is why Anwar should clarify whether his announcement in Parliament on the withdrawal of the waiver to UEM from having to make a mandatory general offer to Renong minority shareholders still stands or has been revoked or overruled.