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Malaysia's Felda may sell share holdings, London hotels in investment review

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Malaysia's Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), operator of some of the world's biggest palm oil plantations, may sell shares in publicly listed firms and some hotels in London in a review of investments to raise funds, its chairman said.

[KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysia's Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), operator of some of the world's biggest palm oil plantations, may sell shares in publicly listed firms and some hotels in London in a review of investments to raise funds, its chairman said.

"We are looking at various assets we own," Shahrir Abdul Samad told reporters on Tuesday.

"You will see disposals, particularly overseas assets."

"We have been mandated to sell some of the shares in our investment portfolio... to raise a certain amount of money. We have to sustain socioeconomic activities for our settlers," Mr Shahrir said, referring to small landowners.

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He did not say how much state-owned Felda was looking to raise.

Mr Shahrir - who took over as Felda chairman this month - said the funds raised from possible asset sales will be used for settlers' activities.

Felda trimmed its stake in Malaysia's biggest lender by assets, Malayan Banking Berhad (Maybank) on Monday, raising about 280 million ringgit (S$89.669 million), Mr Shahrir said.

It also owns shares in plantation firms Felda Global Ventures Berhad, Kuala Lumpur Kepong and Sime Darby, among others.

Through its investment arm, Felda Investment Corp, it has also acquired and invested in properties abroad, including the Grand Plaza Kensington Hotel in London.

Earlier this month, a local daily reported that Felda was considering privatising Felda Global Ventures, which later said it was not aware of any such plans.

Felda drew widespread criticism with its December announcement that it would buy a 37 per cent stake in Indonesian palm oil firm PT Eagle High Plantations Tbk for US$505.4 million, which critics saw as overpriced.

Eagle High is owned by one of Indonesia's richest men, Peter Sondakh, who has done a number of deals in Malaysia and is a longtime friend of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

An opposition lawmaker has claimed Felda's debts are growing and that it doesn't have enough funds to pay small landowners, or Felda settlers as they are known.

The government will finance Felda's Eagle High stake purchase, Mr Shahrir said on Tuesday, but he did not give any details.

REUTERS

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