PLUS unlikely to be sold to Bumiputera entrepreneur

KUALA LUMPUR, 24 Sept 2017: 

A member of parliament has joined the tide of concern over PLUS Malaysia Bhd possibly being acquired by a private party – saying the profitable highway operator should remain in government hands.

Anuar Manap, the MP for Sekijang, also raised this concern – citing previous cases where private entities that owned strategic businesses or assets had to be bailed out by the government.

“PLUS is now owned by the government via UEM and EPF.  This investment has given good returns to the 14.5 million EPF contributors and also the government, in terms of the yearly dividends and taxes,” he said in a statement today.

He was responding to a proposal made by entrepreneur Tan Sri Abu Sahid  Mohamad – who took control of still-ailing Perwaja Steel – to purchase PLUS Malaysia through his flagship Maju Holdings Sdn Bhd.

Khazanah Holdings Bhd owns a controlling 51% equity stake in PLUS Malaysia through UEM Group Bhd while the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) holds 49% shareholding.

“It would not make investment or economic sense for EPF and the government to give up this investment.

“We cannot take away the benefits already enjoyed by 14.5 million EPF members only to benefit individuals or a private entity.

Anuar questioned how will EPF now find a replacement for this stellar investment.

“There is only one PLUS as a giant infrastructure investment.

“Why give up our own infrastructure investment  development in PLUS then?  Wouldn’t the 14.5 million EPF members question EPF’s move to exit such a good investment.

“PLUS has not had a toll hike for more than 10 years.  If PLUS gets compensated for this, it is merely a left to right pocket move, with the funds still remaining in government hands. Ultimately it will still benefit the 14.5 million EPF members, said Anuar.

He said that the offer of a toll hike freeze as proposed by Maju Holdings for the next 20 years might look good from the rakyat’s perspective and cost savings to the government.

“However, we have seen cases previously where private entities that owned strategic businesses or assets had to be bailed out by the government.

“Will there be another bailout say 10 to 15 years down the road, with no toll hike and to keep the same standard as what PLUS has done now amidst rising cost of raw materials.”

PLUS operates about 770km North-South Expressway, that is the ‘backbone’ of Peninsular Malaysia. It is the country’s strategic asset and rightfully should be managed by the government.

The expressway, built as part of a public-private partnership project, has been nationalised when UEM and EPF took over in 2012.

– Bernama

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