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Malaysia's Petronas approves another $2.4 bln govt payout to battle COVID-19

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Malaysian state oil firm Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) said late on Tuesday it had approved an additional 10 billion ringgit ($2.40 billion) dividend to the government to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this week, the country’s economic minister had said Petronas would pay the government, its sole shareholder, 34 billion ringgit in dividends this year.

The firm, which suffered its first loss in nearly five years during the second quarter, had initially pledged to pay 24 billion ringgit and said any additional funding would depend on its affordability.

Petronas said it had approved the additional dividend, to be remitted by November-end, in response to “the unprecedented challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” adding that it had fully paid the amount originally committed.

“In determining whether this additional dividend was affordable, the Petronas board first satisfied itself that the company could comfortably continue to fund its operations, service its debts and meet its obligations as well as invest in its future growth,” it said in an email late on Tuesday responding to Reuters’ queries.

“Petronas remains resolute in its efforts to preserve cash and strengthen our financial resilience during this unprecedented time.”

The dividend announcement comes as the government prepares to table its 2021 budget, aimed at cushioning the economic impact of the pandemic, on Friday. ($1 = 4.1600 ringgit) (Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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