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Malaysia in transition

Heads continue to roll at Malaysia's state-linked corporations

Pay TV group Astro announces CEO's resignation, following Telekom Malaysia

Rohana Rozhan, CEO of  Astro Malaysia Holdings, becomes the latest executive to resign following Mahathir's return to power. 

KUALA LUMPUR -- Astro Malaysia Holdings announced on Thursday the resignation of CEO Rohana Rozhan as part of the pay TV operator's succession plan.

Her resignation, effective Jan. 31, 2019, follows the departure of Shazalli Ramly, Telekom Malaysia's CEO on Wednesday and comes amid the changes sweeping state-linked companies under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Rohana's departure comes amid a slump in earnings and demand for the company's stocks. Net profit dropped 10.8% year on year to 174.7 million ringgit ($44 million) in the quarter ended April 30 due to lower revenue from television, its key business. Astro's shares fell 36% year to date to 1.83 ringgit on Wednesday, while FBM KLCI, Bursa Malaysia's key index, dropped 0.3%.

In an April interview, while conceding that internet streaming services were usurping TV subscription revenue, Rohana also defended Astro's advantage. To counter, the TV operator -- which claims 75% household penetration -- said it will introduce value-added services, such as in-house produced vernacular content for regional markets.

"We never lost customers," said Rohana. "We are still marketing to them," she added, referring to Astro's over-to-top online video service and e-commerce platform.

An Astro spokesperson said Rohana's resignation had "absolutely nothing" to do with politics nor the recent departure of several leaders in government agencies and state-linked companies.

Her resignation came amid speculation that Astro founder Ananda Krishnan would like to privatize the TV operator after its dismal performance. Ananda's company, All Asia Media Equities, is the second largest shareholder in Astro after state fund Khazanah Nasional. In response, Astro said it had not received any privatization offer.

Meanwhile, the abrupt departure of Telekom Malaysia's chief raised questions over his link to the Barisan Nasional, or National Front, alliance led by former Prime Minister Najib Razak. Shazalli reportedly helped produce an election campaign song for the National Front. The music video was sung by 14 executives of state-owned companies, including CIMB Group Holdings and Malaysia Airports Holdings.

Shazalli, a marketing expert, held executive positions in other Khazanah group companies before joining Telekom Malaysia in May 2017. He will be temporarily replaced by his deputy Bazlan Osman, while Henry Tan, the current chief content and consumer officer at Astro, will take on Rohana's position.

Local media reports indicate that more heads of state-linked companies are expected step down as the government's reforms continue.

Separately, Central Bank Governor Muhammad Ibrahim resigned on Wednesday after funds from a land sale to the bank were allegedly used by the previous government to service debts in the scandal-tainted state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

The prime minister's newly formed government has directed Malaysia's sovereign funds to draw a line between their business and political activities. Funds including Khazanah and the Employees Provident Fund control about a quarter of the top 100 companies listed in the Bursa Malaysia Stock Exchange.

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