Khazanah: PLUS should remain in the hands of the public

By MARK RAO / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

SELLING PLUS Malaysia Bhd to private entities could prove a “huge moral hazard” as the asset should remain in the ownership of the Malaysian public, according to Khazanah Nasional Bhd MD Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan (picture).

He said Khazanah — which holds an indirect 51% stake in Malaysia’s largest toll expressway operator — views PLUS as a “strategic asset” for the country that would be difficult to imagine in private hands.

“(This is) especially if a lot of the offers coming in are from private entities who just want to acquire the asset at a cheap discount (but is) still asking the government to guarantee them,” he told reporters after Khazanah’s Megatrends Forum in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

“I think that it is a huge moral hazard in having private entities to hold such a strategic asset with the backing of government guarantees.”

He added that Khazanah — Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund — has been in discussion with the government in respect to this.

“While we are not at liberty at this point of time to discuss what we put forward to the government, I think basically it is in line with the thought that (PLUS) is a strategic asset and its highways should really remain in the ownership of the Malaysians.”

This comes shortly after he stated that Khazanah has no interest in selling its majority stake in PLUS despite receiving several offers for the asset from both local and foreign entities.

Speaking to TV3 in an interview aired on Saturday, he said the offers coming in for the highway asset were at a price significantly lower than its actual value.

PLUS holds a total of five concessions, namely Projek Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan Bhd, Expressway Lingkaran Tengah Sdn Bhd, Linkedua (M) Bhd, Konsortium Lebuhraya Butterworth-Kulim Sdn Bhd and Penang Bridge Sdn Bhd. All of these concessions reportedly will end in December, 2038.