More Than One Reason To Dump Blackrock


 


 The uproar against Blackrock continues. After Khairy Jamaluddin’s ultimatum to Anwar Ibrahim that the prime minister would be complicit in the genocide if he did not dump Blackrock, Anwar stood his ground and defended it.
Now cyber-troopers on both sides of the political divide are attacking each other, accusing them of how they too worked with the company in one way or another.
“Whataboutism” by both political sides doesn’t help, in fact, it only exposes the extent to which our sovereignty has been compromised.
Here I would like to look at the issues that further reinforce why we should keep Blackrock and similar corporations out of the country.
Is MAHB profitable?
Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) was established to manage, operate and maintain all airports in Malaysia. It operates 39 airports (including five international airports). Senai Airport in Johor is not among them.
The entity started as a state-run enterprise and was corporatised in 1992. Later in 1999, MAHB as we know it today, became the first Asian airport operator to be incorporated as a public limited company and listed on Bursa Malaysia.
Although the national carrier Malaysian Airlines (MAS) was riddled with debt several times, such was not the case for MAHB. The company reported in its 2023 annual report that it achieved a total pre-tax/zakat profit of RM510.8 million.
MAHB chairperson Zainon Ali said in the annual report: “For the financial year ended Dec 31, 2023, 2023 (FY2023), Malaysia Airports recorded revenue of RM4,914.2 million, 57.2 percent higher year-on-year (YOY) revenue from airport operations, which combines both aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue.
“It increased significantly by 60.6 percent YOY to RM4,598.9 million, due to higher passenger movements, in particular, international passengers.”
The report also boasted a single-tier final dividend payout of 10.80 sen per ordinary share for FY2023 amounting to RM180.2 million based on the number of ordinary shares issued at the end of FY2023.
So MAHB is definitely a profit-making enterprise that survived the pandemic years and has continued growing. So why is there a need to clinch the deal with Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP)?
And why are MAHB and the government defending it even after the takeover by the controversial Blackrock Investment company?
The GIP deal
According to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), they are an equity investor keen to invest in growing companies around the world, especially airports.
In an interview with Bernama, Phil Iley, head of transport at GIP shared that his company is keen to invest in large infrastructure assets across the globe that provide essential services and support economic growth.
Iley said GIP’s long-term investment is usually around 10 years and it prefers to execute its investment through equity ownership over a company to effectively transform it in line with its global corporate vision.
If Blackrock had not taken over GIP in January this year, no one would have flagged the matter, as buying of shareholdings into Malaysian companies by foreign corporations is regarded as business as usual.
At this juncture, it is important to remind ourselves that airports are strategic assets of a sovereign state and should be kept close to our hearts.
Even though it was corporatised and public-listed, the government could still influence the company through its main shareholders Khazanah and KWSP.
So should we worry about GIP/Blackrock since together with Abu Dhabi Investment it would be only holding 30 percent of the shares?
Although we condemn any links or cooperation with any companies (irrespective of how much equity they have) complicit with the genocide in Palestine, I would like to argue there is more to this world's largest investment company than its complicity in arms manufacturing.
Who is Blackrock?
Iley attempted to allay fears by stating that its operations in MAHB would not be controlled by Blackrock.
He said GIP’s existing leadership team will “retain full control and responsibility for the strategic direction and operation of GIP and the companies it has invested in” after its acquisition by Blackrock.
We need to dive deeper to understand who Blackrock is and how it operates. It would be naive to believe Iley’s assurances.
Blackrock, the world’s largest asset management firm has been noted to pour billions of dollars into companies that are destroying our climate, against human rights and much more.
Blackrock has invested US$2.7 billion in four key pipeline companies to carry oil sands out of Alberta, Canada. The Northern Alberta tar sands are the third-largest fossil fuel reserve on earth. It has a total of US$75 billion in the 30 top tar sands production companies, including oil giants Chevron and Exxon.
Besides investing heavily in fossil fuels, Blackrock’s tentacles have also extended into destroying the Amazon forest.
An Amazon Watch report reveals how five of the world’s most powerful financial institutions are actively contributing to climate change by providing debt and equity financing for crude oil extraction projects in the Amazon. The five named are Citigroup Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Blackrock.
These projects funded by companies like Blackrock have severely destroyed the forest and infringed on the rights of the indigenous communities.
Blackrock’s rhetoric that it invests responsibly is questionable as it continues to profit from the destruction of nature and communities globally.
In addition to its tainted track record of investing in fossil fuel and climate-destructive companies, Blackrock is known to influence government decision-making processes.
One such case is how it influences European Union Climate policies. It uses a strategic method known as an “echo chamber”, where one’s voice is heard over and over from many directions.
Similarly, Blackrock lobbies its interest through various public relations, trade associations and event organisers.
With its large asset investment portfolio globally, it has the capacity to move strategic companies to engage with governments at various levels to see that their interest is translated into national and even regional policy as in the case of the EU.
Blackrock is a member of 23 trade associations, groups and institutes active on the lobbying scene in the EU. Cumulatively, Blackrock and these 23 national, European or international groups spend between €28.3 million and €31.9 million in annual lobbying activities.
One such example cited by the report “Exposing Blackrock’s Grip on EU Climate Finance Plans” mentions how the EU has backtracked on its green bond standard. Green bonds are widely seen as a key instrument to redirect finance towards greener investments.
After years of vigorous policy debate by climate activists on the need to introduce stricter rules and criteria, Blackrock’s intervention and lobbying have made the policy voluntary.
The EU green bond standard could have been the first minimum safeguard linked to the EU taxonomy. Blackrock has been pushing hard through various EU influencing channels for the EU green bonds to remain voluntary and they seem to have succeeded.
Blackrock’s monopoly capitalism
I still remember, Anwar talking about how we should be wary of unbridled capitalism as it impoverishes people and how his government will not allow it. But Blackrock’s almost omnipresence in the global corporate world demonstrates just that - unbridled capitalism.
Both financially and politically, Blackrock has become a dominant force in global capitalism. With its sheer equity over so many key global corporations, it monopolises the finance and decision-making process.
As it owns shares in competing companies, for example, Blackrock has equity of six to seven percent in both Microsoft and Apple under a concept of common ownership, they can manoeuvre themselves freely, profiting from either side.
Here is where MAHB and the Malaysian government have to be aware of how Blackrock could influence procurement patterns.
With Anwar’s government ratifying the contentious CPTPPA trade agreement in November 2022, the Finance Ministry is already in the process of restructuring government procurement policies to facilitate foreign participation in local procurement tenders in line with the requirements of the CPTPPA.
So what stops companies like Blackrock now from dictating to us who to buy from?
When corporations’ economic dominance becomes significant, they will in time also influence the politics of the country.
It is no secret that the concept of common ownership also applies to funding political parties. Blackrock is known to fund both the Democrats and Republicans in the United States.
Corporations like Blackrock do not need to assert their interest openly as their echo chamber strategy would have already “converted” certain policymakers to be their advocates.
Anwar and the government have to be wary of these large corporations and their web of influence.
While the current polemics surrounding Blackrock and Israel's genocide in Palestine have brought to light the extent of corporate control and dominance of such unbridled capitalism, it does not end with this issue.
As politicians begin to be compromised and influenced by the echo chamber, the responsibility to weed out such destructive corporate forces lies with the people.
We, the rakyat have to be vigilant in keeping watch of such corporations that are unwavering in making profits by all means. - Mkini
SIVARAJAN A is Parti Sosialis Malaysia secretary-general.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.


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