KUALA LUMPUR: The Ministry of Finance is expected to appoint a new chief executive officer (CEO) for the country’s largest rail service Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd as early as this week.
And it will not be former Prasarana Malaysia Bhd president and chief executive officer Prasarana Datuk Seri Azmi Abdul Aziz who was rumoured to replace Mohd Rani Hisham Samsudin.
It is understood that the ministry had selected Datuk Ir. Kamarulzaman Zainal to helm KTMB.
Last Thursday, a daily had tipped Azmi to be KTMB’s new CEO, with an announcement expected last Friday.
Azmi left Prasarana on December 31 last year after his contract expired.
Kamarulzaman will replace Mohd Rani who stepped down last month after two years at the helm.
Mohd Rani took the helm at KTMB on September 15, 2017, replacing Datuk Sarbini Tijan whose contract ended on April 30 the same year.
Kamarulzaman, aged 56, was appointed to the KTMB board on August 1 2016.
He was senior vice president of industry intelligence at the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT).
He will be tasked to help turn around the loss-making national railway company.
KTMB, owned by the MOF, has been undergoing a restructuring exercise to return to profitability.
The company has lost more than RM3 billion since it was corporatised in 1992.
KTMB did post a net profit of between RM9 million and RM15 million from 1993 to 1995.
The company started to bleed again from 1996 and has been trying for almost two decades to turn around its fortunes.
Despite the many changes to its top management and injection of funds by the government, KTMB has been unable to turn around.
An audit conducted in 2011 showed that KTMB had incurred RM100 million in losses, which almost tripled to RM280 million in 2012.
In fiscal year 2015, KTMB suffered a net loss of RM226.25 million.
Low fares are among the main contributing factors that led to KTMB racking up losses.
The other main contributing factor was KTMB’s high operational cost in maintaining its rail coaches and infrastructure, plus high electricity and diesel consumption, and manpower costs.
As a result of the deteriorating conditions of KTMB’s rolling stock, coaches and infrastructure in stretches along the east coast and south, nearly 40 per cent of its operating expenses is spent on manpower costs.
In 2015, employee benefits totalled RM294.5 million, which was 57 per cent of the RM515.8 million revenue the company recorded that year.
KTMB’s former CEO Sarbini said in early 2017 that the company was technically bankrupt.
He said that for every ringgit the company made, 80 sen went to staff cost.
“Kamarulzaman will have to do a lot of cleaning up in KTMB. The company needs to improve its overall operation to make a profit,” said a source with knowledge on railway matters.
“It requires a substantial amount to upgrade the tracks, coaches and locomotives, as well as signalling and communications system to operate more efficiently. It will also have to look at its staff count and reduce redundant positions,” the source added.