KUALA LUMPUR: Private company Beta Mutiara Corp Bhd is currently awaiting approval from Unit Kerjasama Awam Swasta at the Prime Minister’s Department to undertake the proposed construction of RM4.6bil Jelas Highway.
The 116km highway, an alternative highway link to the main North-South Expressway (NSE), will connect Jelapang in Ipoh at NSE to Batu Kawan in Penang and have about 13 interchanges/exits.
Group executive chairman and managing director Tan Sri Bahadon Ariffin said the company would fork out 30% capital for the project to be undertaken by its wholly-owned infrastructure development arm BMT Jelas Sdn Bhd.
The remaining 70% will come from a fund-raising exercise via the group’s sukuk programme, he said in an interview recently.
Jelas Highway, short for Jelapang-Selama-Batu Kawan Expressway, was mooted in 2010 with the intention to boost development of residential, commercial, industrial and services sectors and further creating opportunities for small and medium enterprises and those in the suppliers chain industries.
Bahadon said the group had inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Elaf Bank, a Bahrain-based investment bank.
With the MoU, Elaf Bank became the financial advisor to the group, and proposed for the sukuk programme.
Subsequently, through Elaf, the group received a letter of interest dated Oct 22, 2010 from Hong Leong Islamic Bank, to be the proposed lead arranger and carry out services in relation to the fund-raising exercise for the proposed sukuk programme of up to RM2bil at the time.
Bahadon explained that back then, the proposed project was for a 85km-long highway from Jelapang to Selama that cost RM2.5bil.
But after a series of discussions with various parties including the Perak state government, the project was extended till Batu Kawan.
“So, because of the extension from 85km to 116km and rising costs in construction materials over the years, the cost has multipled.
“We are also applying green building technology such as LED lights for street lighting to save energy,” he said, adding that it intended the entire 116km highway to have such lights, which would be designed and supplied by China-based Shenzhen JBT Smart Lighting Co Ltd.
On approvals, he said the company obtained approval letters from the Perak and Penang state economic planning units on Aug 23, 2010 and March 17, 2011 respectively.
It also received permission for site possession from Perak Economic Planning Unit and Perak Land and Mines Department on Dec 12, 2013 and Jan 2, 2014 to carry out preliminary works for the highway.
Aside from that, the Perak Works Ministry in May 2011 had also justified the traffic analysis study carried out by transportation planning and traffic management consultant Perunding Trafik Klasik Sdn Bhd (PTK).
“The three-lane dual carriageway will reduce the travelling time by about 30 minutes or is 30km shorter compared to the existing highway.
“With about 1,000 new vehicles daily and since the main NSE is usually congested during the festive season, it calls for a second highway,” said Bahadon, adding PKT’s study revealed that the proposed highway could divert about 60% of traffic.
Bahadon said based on Perak Land and Mines Department’s survey, the alignment was expected to cut through 2,700 lots of mainly unused land.
This meant that the group has to fork out RM270mil to buy the parcels from land owners, said Bahadon, adding that this had already been accounted for in the RM4.6bil project cost.
Headquartered in Perak, Beta Mutiara Corp was incorporated in 2009 with subsidiaries involved in infrastructure development, construction, engineering, land and property, medical, tourism, hotel, education and investment activities, among others.
Other than BMT Jelas, the other subsidiaries include Beta Mutiara Technologies Sdn Bhd, Rangkaian Lekas Bhd, BMT Builders Sdn Bhd, Beta World Diversified Sdn Bhd, Betaland Development Corp Sdn Bhd, Mutiara Healthcare Sdn Bhd and AL Sinnar Sdn Bhd.