Sime Darby Bhd announced Tuesday that it will not pursue its plan to acquire an equity stake in the National Heart Institute (IJN).

In a statement, the conglomerate said it arrived at the decision after taking into consideration the public sentiment and feedback.

This followed the government’s announcement that it had deferred its decision to allow Sime Darby to begin negotiations with the Finance Ministry on taking a 51 percent stake in IJN.

“We are a company whose shareholders represent more than 10 million Malaysians and we have to respect the wishes of the rakyat for IJN to remain in its present structure,” said Sime Darby’s group chief executive officer and group president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zubir Murshid.

“We believe that continued investment in cardiovascular care is critical because it is a leading cause for hospital admissions and one of the major causes of death in Malaysia,” Ahmad Zubir said.

“A partnership with IJN would have been a winning proposition for us, IJN, stakeholders and the public and it was on this basis that we approached the government on a possible partnership with IJN,” he said.

Sime Darby said that it wrote to the government in August last year expressing interest in a partnership that would be mutually beneficial in extending the scope and scale of operations of Sime Darby Healthcare and IJN.

“Such a partnership would have brought together IJN’s leadership in cardiovascular and thoracic care and Sime Darby Healthcare’s expertise in private tertiary care,” Ahmad Zubir said.

“Sime Darby Healthcare’s plan was to set up centres of excellence in various medical fields, such as cancer, heart and neurology, in Malaysia and overseas,” he said.

According to Ahmad Zubir, it has always been Sime Darby’s intention in this project to take into consideration the welfare and interest of the less privileged, an approach in line with the company’s philosophy on social responsibility.

He said that he remained upbeat about the prospects of the healthcare sector and would continue to look for opportunities for expansion and to turn Sime Darby Healthcare into a gold standard healthcare provider in the region.

IJN has earned a reputation as a leading centre for cardiac care with treatment of over a million patients, including former prime minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad.

As a quasi-government hospital, it provides first-class medical treatment at below market rate, since its fees are regulated by the government.