Petronas’ negative outlook not a downgrade — Pua

KUALA LUMPUR: Moody’s Investor Service’s affirmation on Petronas’ outlook from stable to negative on Thursday was not a downgrade, said Political Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Tony Pua.

Describing it as unfortunate, he said it was not a downgrade yet, just a negative outlook.

“The statement by the credit ratings agency is that if the government continues to take money like that (one-off special dividend payment) from Petronas (year after year), then it will be downgraded.

“They (Moody’s) are worried that it will be more than one-off. In government’s position, this is a one-off,” he said at the post 2019 Budget talk, “Doing Business In The New Malaysia” here yesterday.

Pua added that Petronas would able to pay a special one-off dividend of RM30 billion in 2019 as its cash reserves were more than sufficient.

“The cash reserves will not affect Petronas’ ability to invest in capital expenditure, going forward,” he said.

Pua also said that credit rating agencies, including Fitch Ratings and S&P Global Ratings, have understood the government’s position of having a lower deficit of 3.7 per cent as it needed to pay off the income tax and GST refunds amounting to RM37 billion.

“They also saw that we have a plan to improve our deficit to 2.8 pct in 2021. They stated that if we are able to follow the fiscal consolidation exercise, with improved transparency, then we are doing very well,” he said.

On Thursday, Moody’s said the decision to change Petronas outlook to negative reflected its view that the company’s financial profile might deteriorate if the government continued to ask the national oil company to keep dividend payments high, especially if oil prices declines.

It added that although Petronas could support the dividend payments announced in the budget and still maintain a net cash position, a further increase in regular dividend payments cannot be ruled out.

Meanwhile, Pua said that the peer-to-peer (P2P) property crowdfunding platform, FundMyHome, was not a monopoly and was open to other parties who could provide the same type of platform.

He said that there was a misconception about the FundMyHome portal launched recently by Malaysian-based property portal operator The Edge Property Sdn Bhd, with some parties claiming that it was a monopoly.

“As the finance minister (Lim Guan Eng) announced in the 2019 Budget, the Securities Commission (SC) will regulate and issue licenses for property exchange platforms (property crowdfunding platforms).

“FundMyHome is just one of them, but we are open to other parties forming the same type of platform to make the these facilities available to the public, as long as they comply with SC’s regulations,” he said.

He said the launch of FundMyHome was made two days after the Budget announcement to publicise the mechanism.

“The main consideration is to be able to put in place the regulations, protect house buyers and protect the investors,” added Pua. — Bernama

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