Halim Saad wages war on Khazanah…again

Halim’s offer clearly eclipses all other offers for cashminting PLUS by miles

Pic By TMR File

TYCOON Tan Sri Halim Saad and partner Datuk Wong Gian Kui have added another twist to the PLUS Malaysia Bhd saga by tabling a RM5.2 billion bid to acquire Khazanah Nasional Bhd’s entire stake in the highway concessionaire.

The offer letter dated Oct 11, 2019, was sent to Works Minister Baru Bian. He also offered a 25% discount on toll rates, while the concession period would end as per status quo — December 2038.

Halim confirmed the bid was made to The Malaysian Reserve.

Clearly, Halim’s offer eclipsed all other offers for cash-minting PLUS by miles.

Other offerors’ cash offers ranged from RM1 billion for a partial stake to RM3.5 billion for the entire shareholding in PLUS. The businessman, who was once one of the most prominent Malay entrepreneurs, is up for the fight for PLUS.

To many, his entry into the race for PLUS was not a major shock or a levity. With more than RM5.2 billion under his belt, the former executive chairman of Renong Bhd is like a marksman with a fully loaded Winchester and his target is not just PLUS, but feels like a renewing fight with Khazanah.

This is not the first time he had tried to wrestle back his former assets. It was also no secret of Halim and Khazanah’s frosty relationship after the latter bulldozed the acquisition of the former’s empire.

Even hell freezes over will not stop Halim it seems. The tycoon felt he got the short end of the stick and was “persuaded” to surrender his kingdom in an unfair manner.

He sued Khazanah, former Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop and the government, but lost his final avenue to restore his RM1.8 billion civil suit in July 2015.

The contention revolved around the settlement to give up control of Renong. Halim wanted to reclaim over RM1.8 billion in compensation for selling his stake in Renong. He claimed that he owned 372 million shares in 2001.

He also claimed that Nor Mohamed had induced him to take up the deal to exit Renong and United Engineers Malaysia Bhd (UEM).

Accidentally, Khazanah now fully owns UEM and the latter holds a 51% stake in PLUS.

In his latest bid, Halim claimed that PLUS had collected more than RM24.5 billion in toll revenue since 2012, but continued to be dogged by about RM30 billion in debts from two Islamic debt papers.

Halim, who was responsible for the construction of the 772km North–South Expressway, also highlighted that the tender price of the concession awarded to UEM/ PLUS in 1988 was RM3.4 billion, but later adjusted to RM5.7 billion due to interest charges and variation orders.

Halim’s bid opens a pandora box. There are some questions which require answers. Some of the stakeholders may claim that PLUS is a private company, and financial transactions, dividend distributions and debt settlement are private.

It is a private matter if you are a “Sdn Bhd” with paid-up capital that comes from your own pocket and life savings.

But PLUS is owned by Khazanah, a state-owned fund and guaranteed by the government, while the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) manages the money of more than 13 million depositors.

Both EPF and Khazanah are built on the public’s contribution. Halim Saad is the ghost of the past and his braggadocio may unravel mystery skeleton.

Mohamad Azlan Jaafar is the editor-in-chief at The Malaysian Reserve.