KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — Maju Holdings executive chairman Tan Sri Abu Sahid Mohamed has lambasted the government’s decision to keep PLUS Malaysia Bhd’s highway concessions, calling it a “stupid” move.
He also accused Khazanah Nasional Berhad managing director, Shahril Ridza Redzuan, of lying about his company’s buy-over bid.
News portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT) reported the tycoon, who was one of the hopeful bidders keen in the PLUS takeover, making the scathing attacks against the government and Shahril today, and questioning as to why the decision was not relayed to him, despite his company being invited to make an offer for the buy-over.
“I don’t even know why they don’t want to sell. They didn’t tell me why they don’t want to sell.
“They must remember I was invited to quote, to bid. Not like other people who just entered without invitation.
“Why did Shahril say that? He is a liar. How can they say I was not invited and they knew nothing about us bidding? We wrote to them, we were the first to write to them,” FMT quoted Abu Sahid saying.
Shahril reportedly said that Khazanah had never issued invitations calling for bidders for the PLUS buy-over.
When contacted response towards Abu Sahid’s accusation, Shahril reportedly maintained his stand on the matter, FMT reported.
“We have never issued any invitation to bid for the asset. They were all unsolicited offers,” he was quoted saying.
Abu Sahid had also accused Khazanah of “stealing money”, and urged the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to step in and probe Shahril.
He reportedly said that his company’s cost of resurfacing highways was only one-third of Khazanah’s cost.
“They are paying RM58 per metre square for resurfacing the road. I am paying RM18,” Abu Sahid said.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that the federal government is not accepting private offers to take over PLUS’ highway concessions.
He said the Cabinet has decided that the country’s biggest highway concessionaire will remain with its current owners, Khazanah and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), also known by its Malay initials as KWSP.
He added that toll rates however, would need to be reduced by 18 per cent.
He said that while traffic may increase, the ringgit’s purchasing power is not very strong, therefore toll earnings are not as much as publicly perceived.
“We are fixing it based on the present rate and it will be flat minus 18 per cent.
“Although the traffic may grow, the earnings may not be as great as the original concession,” Dr Mahathir said.
Speculation about the potential sale and/or takeover of 15 highways nationwide, including the North-South Expressway managed by PLUS, has been ongoing for months now as toll reduction was among the Pakatan Harapan coalition’s electoral promises.
The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) said last November that in order to cut toll fares, the government would have to either nationalise or privatise the highways.
In July last year, Bernama reported Works Minister Baru Bian saying that the ministry received an official offer from Maju Holdings to take over PLUS.
He said that the ministry was studying the offer before bringing it up to the Cabinet.
“No company other than Maju Holdings has made an official offer. The matter is still with the ministry and has not been brought to the Cabinet yet,” he told reporters after opening the Highway Concession Conference 2019 in Penang.
Baru was asked to comment on media reports that Maju Holdings had submitted a fresh offer to take over PLUS.
Maju Holdings had reportedly made a RM36 billion offer in 2017 to take over PLUS.