Cabinet to discuss bids on PLUS by mid-December

The Work Ministry has received 5 offers, including a proposal from state fund Khazanah


THE Cabinet is expected to discuss takeover offers for the country’s largest highway operator PLUS Malaysia Bhd within the next two weeks, said Works Minister Baru Bian.

The ministry has received five offers to date, including a proposal from state fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd. A spokesperson for Khazanah confirmed the submission. The sovereign wealth fund is currently the biggest shareholder in PLUS with a 51% stake.

Baru said a ministerial committee involving the Works Ministry, the Finance Ministry and Economic Affairs Ministry, which will look into the takeover and tolls, will deliver a joint memorandum on the offers and recommendations to the Cabinet by mid-December.

“We have received all the offers in detail and were briefed by the respective representatives. In fact, in our first committee meeting (last week), we have briefed other ministries on what we have, and we will deliberate further on this.

“We have four offers from the private sector. Together with Khazanah’s proposal, we have a total of five. Khazanah proposed their structure, so we are examining all of them,” Baru said after the launch of the National Technical Professional Day 2019 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The government’s target to cut spending and eliminate tolls has attracted interests from private entities seeking to cash in on long-term steady returns. Despite a debt load of over RM30 billion, PLUS continued to record solid profits of RM21.35 million to RM62.39 million from 2011 to 2016.

Besides Khazanah, the four bidders are tycoon Tan Sri Halim Saad, construction company Widad Business Group Sdn Bhd, equity firm RJJ Capital and conglomerate Maju Holdings Bhd. Widad’s revised RM5.3 billion cash offer in late October, making it the highest bidder for the toll-road operator.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said earlier there were no “attractive offers” made on PLUS as they did not give a promising prospect on the company. Dr Mahathir said buyers must have the capacity to keep PLUS on a profitable path, given its RM30 billion debt.

Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Azmin Ali, meanwhile, said any offers to take over PLUS must include a caveat to abolish tolls as promised in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) election manifesto.

Azmin, who sits on the board of Khazanah, said the government has no intent to privatise the highway operator as road usage should not be used to generate profit.

Earlier at the event, Dr Mahathir via a video recorded message emphasised the need for the country to have more skilled workers parallel with its aspiration to become a developed nation.

He said countries like Germany — where seven of its top 10 largest corporations are from the information and communications technology, telecommunication and automotive sectors — depend heavily on technical professionals to drive the nation forward.

“Malaysian expertise is recognised globally where many who work overseas have high levels of knowledge in their respective fields, especially in the technical profession. This is seen in the success of Petroliam Nasional Bhd, which now operates the world over with a workforce that has great technical skills and expertise in oil and gas.

“We need to ensure that our workforce is equipped with the latest skills through upgrades and upscaling in line with future industry needs. Our effort together in the technical field can subsequently reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign labour,” Dr Mahathir said.