Top policymaker could be tapped to lead Malaysia Airlines: report

KUALA LUMPUR Tue Aug 19, 2014 11:36pm EDT

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane is seen from the departure hall at the Hong Kong International Airport June 2, 2011. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane is seen from the departure hall at the Hong Kong International Airport June 2, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Bobby Yip

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KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia is considering tapping one of its top economic policymakers to lead an overhaul of Malaysia Airlines that aims to transform the troubled carrier into a "premium airline", a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Idris Jala, who heads the government's Economic Transformation Program, previously led the national airline from 2005 to 2009. He steered the firm from heavy losses to record profits through hefty cost cutting, though critics have said it was an unsustainable long-term model.

Malaysia Airlines, whose business has been devastated by the unexplained disappearance of Flight MH370 and the shooting down of Flight MH17 over Ukraine, is set to be taken private by state fund and majority shareholder Khazanah Nasional [KHAZA.UL].

Other candidates being considered for the top job include Jamaludin Ibrahim, the chief executive of state-controlled telecoms firm Axiata, the Edge Financial Daily said, citing unidentified sources.

The report also cited an industry source as saying the airline would be remodeled as a "premium airline" from a full-service airline, with cuts to its domestic and international routes.

Jala has headed the government's Performance Management and Delivery Unit since 2009, spearheading a $444 billion government effort to lift private investment and achieve developed nation status by 2020.

An official in Jala's office said he was not aware of the report.

The loss-making carrier, currently led by Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yayha, said on Tuesday it has postponed publication of second-quarter earnings from Wednesday until Aug. 28, likely its last set of earnings as a listed company. It is also preparing a restructuring package, which is expected to be announced by the end of August.

(Reporting by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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