Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) plans to buy back part of the 31 percent equity shares held by Hong Kong company, Wang Tak Co. Ltd. (Wang Tak), in Bernas.

tokpaMinister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said Bernas had personally relayed its intention to buy back the shares from the foreign company as a move in keeping with the company’s role as the national rice supplier.

“This, however, does not mean that the government intends to restrict the entry of foreign investment. In fact, the government encourages the entry of foreign investments,” he said.

As for Bernas issue, it was a normal process when it was listed on the stock exchange, and a specific party had bought the shares and there were no restrictions on it by the government as the sale was in accordance with the laws, he told reporters after officiating the SME Bank Entrepreneurs Expo here today.

He said this when asked to comment on the 31 percent equity held by Wang Tak in Bernas, and the concerns raised by several parties on the major equity ownership by a foreign company in the country’s national rice supplier company.

Bernas in a statement Wednesday had clarified that its position was not in jeopardy with the foreign equity ownership as Wang Tak’s purchase of the shares, through the open market, did not involve any structural change to the control and management of Bernas.

Following Bernas listing on the Bursa Malaysia’s Main Board in August 1997, the management and direction of the company came under full control of the Bernas Board of Directors which is fairly represented by the major and minor shareholders of the company.

They include the Malaysian Government as the special shareholder represented through the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro Based Industries.

This is stated in the terms and conditions of the Company Memorandum and Articles as well as the privatisation agreement signed between Bernas and the government in 1996.

Article 3 (1) states that any merger which can involve the transfer of power or management of the company to any individuals or foreign firms or any foreign controlled firm, is not allowed at all.

Mustapa, however, did not say when Bernas will be buying back the shares.

He also called on all parties not to worry, saying the management of Bernas will not be affected including changes to the price of rice.

Mustapa said the government had the Golden Share, giving it the absolute power to decide the direction of Bernas.

“This means any action by Bernas will need the approval of the government before it is undertaken.

“It also covers the fixing of rice price in the market, and this will not change even if a foreign company owns 31 percent equity in Bernas.

“Without the government’s agreement, the action (increasing the price of rice) cannot be taken by Bernas,” he said.

–BERNAMA