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December 17, 2008
Malaysia's state firm may buy heart hospital-paper

December 20, 2008

Malaysia: Sime hospital deal delayed on strong protests

The Malaysian government will delay making a decision to sell a majority stake in IJN Holdings Sdn Bhd, the operator of the country's top heart hospital, following strong public objections, reported Reuters.

The decision, made at the weekly cabinet meeting, came after the country's top leaders said on Thursday that the government would not object to conglomerate Sime Darby taking a majority stake in the National Heart Institute.

"This (privatisation) proposal has created strong reaction from the public," said Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is also Finance Minister, on Friday.

The Ministry of Finance, which owns 99.99 percent of IJN, had given approval-in-principle to Sime but is facing public criticisms that the poor people will no longer be able to afford to seek treatment there.

The Finance Ministry, in collaboration with the Health Ministry and the Economic Planning Unit, will conduct a study into the privatisation, which will take a few months to complete.

"Whatever decision the government takes, it will ensure the people's interest will not be compromised," Najib said.

Sime, which presently runs a private hospital and conducts training courses for nurses, wants to diversify its earnings and move into the profitable sector, according to investment analysts.

But Sime's president and chief executive officer Ahmad Zubir Murshid pledged late on Thursday to fulfil the government's social obligation to treat low-income patients.

The government had stipulated three conditions to the privatisation, namely the value of the proposed acquisition, Sime's business plan for the heart hospital and its commitment to continue extending the government's existing obligation to the public, he said.

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