BlackRock won’t partake in Malaysia airport privatization over Israel ties criticism

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Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) said its buyer BlackRock will not be involved in privatizing Malaysia Airports after criticism in Muslim-majority Malaysia over the US firm’s alleged ties to Israel.

GIP, Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional and others are part of a consortium that has offered to take over Malaysia Airport (MAHB) in a privatization deal that would value the airport operator at $3.9 billion.

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The plan has come under criticism and protests from some ruling party and opposition lawmakers in Malaysia, a staunch supporter of the Palestinians, over GIP’s ties to BlackRock’s significant investments in Israel, which is fighting a war against the militant Palestinian Hamas group in Gaza.

MAHB’s planned privatization is the latest focus on protests in Malaysia, following boycott campaigns against such Western brands as McDonald’s and Starbucks over the war in Gaza.

GIP said its existing leadership team will “retain full control and responsibility for the strategic direction and operation of GIP and the companies in which we have invested” after its acquisition by BlackRock, state news agency Bernama reported on Friday, citing a written reply from GIP head of transport Phil Iley.

A GIP spokesperson confirmed the Bernama report. Khazanah did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Iley said the firm would provide MAHB with as much operational support and assistance as needed despite being a minority shareholder.

“If we are successful with our transformation, we would very much consider re-listing MAHB on the Malaysian stock exchange in the future,” he wrote.

Khazanah has said GIP would not hire staff to directly manage MAHB, while Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has described claims that 25 percent of MAHB would be owned by a pro-Zionist company as baseless, without naming the company, Bernama reported.

Under the deal GIP and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority would own 30 percent of MAHB, while the majority stake would be held by Khazanah and the Employees Provident Fund, Malaysia’s largest pension body. The fund did not respond to a request for comment on GIP’s statement.

BlackRock’s $12.5 billion acquisition of GIP is expected to be completed in the third quarter. MAHB manages 39 airports across Malaysia and an international airport in Turkey.

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