Today marked the end of an era for Malaysian Airline System Bhd (MAS) as a public-listed company as the ailing national carrier’s shares closed half a sen lower at 26.5 sen each, with the 70.91 million units traded making it the volume leader on Bursa.

The closing price was half a sen below the 27 sen offered earlier for it to be delisted off Bursa under the restructuring plan spearheaded by its majority shareholder Khazanah Nasional Bhd.

MAS shares will no longer be traded from Monday – the first time in almost 60 years – and it is likely to be at least 2018 before the stock could reappear on the Malaysian bourse if all goes well with its recovery plan.

Beginning in 1947 as Malayan Airways, the airline changed its name to Malaysian Airways after Malaysia gained its independence.

The airline went public 1955 and merged with Singapore Airlines in 1966 to create Malaysia-Singapore Airlines before the 1972 split to adopt its current name.

During its glory days in the 1980s, MAS linked 47 destinations worldwide and in 1993 became the first airline in Southeast Asia to fly to South America.

Privatised to then-rising corporate doyen Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli in 1995 at RM8 per share, MAS succumbed to the 1997 Asian financial crisis to post RM260 million in losses.

Returning to government control, the subsequent years saw MAS suffer ups and downs with various cost-cutting measures and reducing routes.

But relief was fleeting as 2005 saw it incur losses of RM1.3 billion and had to undertake its first major restructuring under Datuk Seri Idris Jala, now Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

MAS launched its Business Turnaround Plan in 2006 which saw the airline rationalising its routes – cutting down 114 routes to 23 – regaining profitability even as a new threat arose with budget carrier AirAsia.

The airline posted a record profit of RM853 million in 2007, only to see its fortunes reversed to post a RM2.5 billion loss in 2011 – the largest in its history.

This then led to an ill-fated equity partnership with AirAsia in 2012, brokered by Khazanah, but the deal fell apart the next year.

Continuing to bleed heavily even as it flew the Malaysian flag around the world, MAS suffered two tragedies in MH370 and MH17 this year – leading to Khazanah finally pulling the plug and instituting the restructuring plan that will see the airline listed no more on Bursa come Monday.

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