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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8 — Tan Sri Halim Saad and a partner are now the frontrunners to buy over highway concessionaire PLUS Malaysia Berhad after the two upped their previous offer by over a third, according to business weekly The Edge.
The paper quoted sources as saying that former Renong Berhad chairman Halim and Datuk Wong Gian Kui raised their initial offer of RM5.2 billion by more than 30 per cent to secure what could be one of the country’s biggest highway deals to date.
“The government asked for a price and he (Halim) raised his earlier offer,” the source said.
Halim had once owned PLUS through Renong and UEM Bhd but was forced to sell it off to sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd after the Asian Financial Crisis caused the collapse of the two companies.
PLUS owns the North-South Expressway (NSE), Second Link Expressway, Penang Bridge, North-South Expressway Central Link, Butterworth-Kulim Expressway and Seremban-Port Dickson Highway.
The Pakatan Harapan administration has so far remained ambiguous about its plans for the concessionaire but said it would consider selling to a company that can find a way to reduce the toll rates but keep profits up.
Media reports indicate negotiations for the sale of PLUS are still ongoing, but in recent months Halim’s name again emerged as one of the leading bidders.
Halim, when asked to confirm The Edge’s report about the fresh offer and his company’s prospect of winning the bid, has so far kept mum and refused to confirm or deny.
“I don’t know,” the former Renong chairman was quoted as saying.
In October, Halim and Wong reportedly made a bid to buy Khazanah’s 51 per cent stake in PLUS, offering RM5.2 billion for the block without any extension of the highway operator’s concessions, which is slated to end in 2038.
The offer also included a 25 per cent discount on current toll rates.
To date, Halim and Wong’s offer price tops competitors like the Widad Business Group, which had revised its offer to RM5.3 billion cash from the initial RM3 billion for all stakes.
The proposition also included remittances and reduction of toll rates by 25 to 40 per cent, but on the condition that the concession be extended.