Not many people like buying stolen goods, let alone one as huge as Equanimity, the superyacht once belonged to Jho Low (full name: Low Taek Jho). Although the luxury boat was not physically stolen, it was bought by Mr. Low for an eye-popping US$250 million (RM1 billion) using money stolen from 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad).
Jho Low, the infamous partner-in-crime of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, was incredibly furious after his favourite toy – The Equanimity – was handed over to the new Government of Malaysia by Indonesia without much challenge. The fugitive has been complaining that his yacht was illegitimately seized by the Mahathir government from Indonesia last August.
Prior to the sale of the yacht announced today, Jho Low has been foaming at the mouth for months, accusing the Malaysian Government of being responsible for substantially eroding the yacht’s value, leading to its failure to be sold in the first round of auctions. As part of the US-Department of Justice’s investigation, the yacht was seized in Bali, Indonesia, in Feb 2018.
Today, Attorney General Tommy Thomas announced that the Equanimity has finally been sold to casino operator Genting Malaysia Bhd for US$126 million (RM514 million). Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the luxury yacht was sold to the highest bidder. That was indeed a splendid news after The Star reported that the government could drop the price to as low as US$80 million.
According to sources, bidders refused to pay more than US$100 million for the controversial yacht. That would be lower than the minimum bid price of US$130 million desired by the Malaysian government as reported in December, a price based on a valuation made by the United Kingdom-based independent appraiser Winterbothams.
As the second phase of bidding neared the March 31 deadline, the government was obviously desperate to get rid of the giant liability. As disclosed by the Ministry of Finance, taxpayers’ money to the tune of RM14.2 million was splashed to maintain the luxury boat for the last eight months – averaging RM1.77 million every month.
Like “car depreciation”, a yacht, especially one as scandalous as Equanimity, depreciates tremendously fast. Hence, foreign potential buyers knew the government wants to dispose of the vessel as soon as possible due to its high maintenance cost. Every single day the yacht stays docked in Langkawi, Kedah, the cheaper it would become for buyers.
Heck, there were even rumours that Jho Low deliberately badmouthed the government, including spreading fake news that the yacht was not properly taken care of, because he was hoping to scoop back his toy as cheap as possible through proxy. As expected, the billionaire fugitive wasted no time condemning the Malaysian government after the sale today.
Jho Low’s spokesman, Benjamin Haslem, Co-CEO of Wells Haslem Mayhew Strategic Public Affairs, said that the “below market price sale” of the yacht was due to the ineptitude of the Mahathir administration. He also claimed that if the yacht was not illegally seized from Indonesia and docked in a hazardous environment at Port Klang, it would have maintained its value and avoided a fire sale.
Mr. Low’s spin doctor said – “It took the Mahathir Government twice as long as they promised to sell the yacht, the auction flopped and the ‘transparent’ sales process the Mahathir Government committed to at the outset has been subject to multiple abrupt changes – largely forced on the Government through their own incompetence.”
The attacks included a personal insult at the government for losing its recent by-elections. Haslem said – “No wonder recent by-election results demonstrate a growing concern from the Malaysian people. As we have stated from the beginning, this is a failed PR stunt, which arrogantly ignored court rulings in Indonesia as well as established legal proceedings in the US.”
As amusing as it may sound, the simple fact that Jho Low pays top dollars for propagandist or PR specialist to constantly attack the government on the issue of the Equanimity since August last year speaks volumes about how much he actually loves his yacht, which he had used since 2014 before being seized by the Indonesian authorities in collaboration with FBI and US-DoJ.
Believed to be still hiding in China, Jho Low has since lost the ability to live a free life sailing around the world in the international water with the Equanimity, which is equipped with Jacuzzi (on deck), sauna, helicopter landing pad, swimming pool, movie theatre, beach club, beauty salon and whatnot. That explains his frustration at the confiscation of the yacht, but not his private jet – Bombardier Global 5000.
However, exactly why Genting burned half a billion Ringgit on a depreciating yacht like Equanimity? Confirming the purchase, the casino operator said the acquisition would allow it to differentiate itself from its competitors and provide the company with a unique and competitive edge for its premium customers’ business. Seriously?
Any Tom, Dick and his hamster can tell that it doesn’t make any business sense spending US$126 million (RM514 million) on a yacht that could only accommodate 26 guests. It’s difficult to get back it’s ROI. The closest Genting has associated itself with ships was in the business of luxury cruise line – Star Cruises – operating in the Asia-Pacific market and based in Hong Kong.
Genting Malaysia, which is involved in gaming, hotel and resort-related operations, has no compelling justification to buy the super luxury and super expensive yacht. Hence, the only explanation Genting’s boss Lim Kok Thay, the son of Genting Highlands founder Lim Goh Tong, bought the Equanimity has everything to do with “National Service”.
In the event the vessel cannot be sold after second round of bidding, Jho Low would have the right to gloat. Mahathir government will be humiliated. Curiously, Genting was willing to pay a hefty premium for the yacht, when other buyers would not touch it with a 10-foot pole unless at below US$100 million. It wasn’t a coincidence that Genting’s offer price was very close to the government’s desired US$130 million.
Source : Finance Twitter