Putrajaya to ‘think about’ settlers’ representation on FGVH board
KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — The Najib administration admitted today it “has to think about” how to give the 112,000 FELDA settlers a voice on the board of FELDA Global Ventures Holdings (FGVH) after the controversial public listing of the palm oil giant’s commercial arm.
The government has been accused of fleecing settlers in the FGVH listing, the second largest in the world this year raising up to RM10.5 billion, as they will be offered just 2.5 per cent of the enlarged stakeholding in the world’s third-largest palm oil planter.
But Putrajaya has said that a trust fund will ensure that an annual dividend from a 20 per cent stake under FELDA Holdings will be channelled directly to the settlers despite the FELDA Investment Cooperative (KPF), which represents their interests, refusing to participate in the listing.
But Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Ahmad Maslan (picture) admitted in a press conference today that as settlers would not have control of a significant stake, they would not have a direct representative on the FGVH board.
“We will have to think about how (to give them a voice),” said the deputy minister in charge of the federal land development scheme.
But the Pontian MP pointed out that after the listing, which has been vehemently opposed by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and some settlers, would see a representative from the Prime Minister’s Office’s FELDA unit “who will ensure both the government and settlers’ interests are protected.”
He also said the settlers would have an indirect say as they were represented on the board of FELDA Holdings, which will still have a 40 per cent stake in FGVH, including the portion under the trust fund.
PKR had questioned last month the 420 million shares set aside for a list of Bumiputera firms approved by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) while the 112,000 FELDA settlers, who have been promised improved earnings, have only been handed 91 million.
The opposition party claimed that the allocation, according to a preliminary prospectus available from the Securities Commission, was “unfair” to settlers and only beneficial to “rich Bumiputeras.”
It cited MITI guidelines obtained from its official website stated that in order to qualify as a MITI-approved Bumiputera investor, an individual must have at least RM3 million in assets, and if it is a company (100 per cent Bumiputera owned), its assets must be worth RM10 million.
DAP publicity chief Tony Pua also claimed Putrajaya would be “fleecing” FELDA settlers of a whopping RM8.8 billion through the leasing of their land under the highly-anticipated public listing which is set to raise RM10.5 billion.
Pua claimed that according to the FGVH draft listing prospectus, not only would KPF not get any ownership of FGVH shares once it gets listed, the co-operative’s existing business and income would be “cannibalised” by FGVH.
The Petaling Jaya Utara MP also claimed the leasing of plantation land to the soon-to-be listed FGVH was done at “dirt-cheap” prices of RM1,490 per hectare or RM530 million annually instead of RM2,600 per ha or a shortfall of RM394 million per year across the 99-year lease.
The planned June 28 listing will create the world’s third-largest palm oil operator with a market capitalisation of RM16.6 billion.
The IPO will be the largest in Asia since February 2011 and the second biggest this year behind social media network Facebook’s float which raised US$16 billion (RM49.6 billion).
Putrajaya is forging ahead with FELDA’s controversial public listing despite criticism from some settlers and the opposition who claim that it will shortchange some 112,000 settlers nationwide.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has assured FELDA settlers that the listing would yield profits, and has announced a RM1.69 billion windfall for all settlers and staff throughout the country ahead of the FGVH listing.