KOTA KINABALU, Dec 4 — AirAsia operator Capital A Bhd said today it has already paid up half of the RM300 million loan it took during the Covid-19 lockdown to Sabah Development Bank.
The low-cost carrier’s chief executive Tan Sri Tony Fernades said the loan had gone a long way to help AirAsia get back on its feet following the pandemic and it was hoping for more financial support to get things back to normal.
“We paid half the loan already. A lot has been done since then — flights, logistics...,” he said when asked to comment on a recent comment by the state finance minister that Sabah had lost a lot of money through loans to peninsula-based companies that eventually went bankrupt.
“I don’t think we will have a problem with repayment. We will talk to the minister about it but we have paid half already and look at what we’ve done. If AirAsia had gone bankrupt Sabah would be worse off.”
“So loans have been helpful. We hope we can get more loans so we can do more. That’s what we want to ask the chief minister. We might be peninsula-based, but we can also be said to be Sabah-based because of our contributions.
“We have so many routes. We are a large part of the Sabah economy,” he added.
Fernandes was here to launch a special tribute livery of former Sabah Tourism Board general manager Datuk Irene Benggon Charuruks who he said was instrumental in the starting up of AirAsia and a huge contributor to the state’s tourism industry.
State finance minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun recently revealed that Sabah Development Bank was owed over RM2.2 billion by government-linked companies, but 60 per cent of its loan portfolio was to Peninsula-based companies, some of whom failed to obtain financing in Peninsular Malaysia.
AirAsia had obtained an RM300 million loan from the state government when Sabah was under the previous Parti Warisan administration, to keep it afloat during the pandemic and also to pivot into the digital business.
The loan had come under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in 2021 after Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor was reported to have ordered a forensic investigation by an independent audit firm into the bank’s decision.
The investigation was said to be looking into how the funds were disbursed within a few days of the installation of the new state government after the previous general election (GE14).
However, there was no evidence of any wrongdoing.