Sarawak premier hints at formalising Affin Bank deal on July 19

KUALA LUMPUR (July 6): Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg has indicated that there will be an official signing ceremony for Sarawak to acquire a major stake in “a bank” — widely understood to be Affin Bank Bhd (KL:AFFIN) — on July 19.

The premier, at a press conference for an event in Kuching on Friday, said Sarawak is set to take over a major block of a bank’s shares, which would pave the way for it to become a dominant player in the Malaysian banking landscape, according to the Dayak Daily.

“The Sarawak government will take over an entity as the majority blockholder, which is related to stocks. However, I will not reveal further details today. Let’s wait until we get to the official signing ceremony, which is expected to take place on July 19,” he told reporters there.

He emphasised that Sarawak having its own bank would significantly enhance its role in the country’s banking sector.

“This is the positive sign. We are going to be a dominant player in the banking business in Malaysia,” he said, according to the daily.

The Edge — citing sources — reported in its July 1 issue that the Sarawak government’s plan to acquire a substantial stake in Affin Bank from the lender’s key shareholders is likely to be inked this month.

The plan — which involves Sarawak raising its stake in the lender to around 30% from 4.8% currently, thus becoming its largest shareholder — had been awaiting Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) approval since January, the report said.

The report cited sources as saying that the central bank had recently granted conditional approval to Sarawak for the deal. It was not immediately known what these conditions were, but they were not expected to be a deal breaker.

“Sarawak will have discussions with BNM on the way forward. It is still looking to close the deal,” the source told The Edge.  

Currently, Affin Bank’s largest shareholder is the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT) with a 28.88% stake. It is understood that Sarawak is to acquire Boustead Holdings Bhd’s entire 20% stake in Affin Bank, as well as part of LTAT’s stake. Boustead, which is wholly owned by LTAT, is currently the bank’s third-largest shareholder.

The bank’s second-largest shareholder is Hong Kong-based Bank of East Asia Ltd, which holds a 23.93% stake.

Affin Bank’s share price shot up by 12 sen or 4.8% on Friday to close at RM2.60, giving the company a market capitalisation of RM6.24 billion.

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