PETALING JAYA: In clarifying inaccurate claims about its debt, PLUS Malaysia Bhd says the group was already a debt-ridden company when Khazanah Nasional Bhd took over the highway operator from Renong Bhd in 2001.
In a statement, PLUS managing director Datuk Azman Ismail said there have been misleading and inaccurate news reports relating to the company’s debt and operational efficiency.
He said a report had claimed that since the takeover, PLUS’ debt has risen almost 10 times the tender price of RM3.4bil in 1988 and that only RM700mil of the debt has been paid.
The report also said that when Tan Sri Halim Saad, who was Renong’s former executive chairman, left the highway operator nine years ago, PLUS’ borrowings stood at RM6bil, five times less than its current debt.
“When Syarikat Danasaham Sdn Bhd, which subsequently transferred all assets to Khazanah, took over UEM Group Bhd from Renong and privatised UEM in 2001, PLUS was a wholly owned subsidiary of UEM and was already a debt-ridden company with a total borrowing of RM16.5bil on its balance sheet as at Dec 31,2001.
“This is almost three times higher than the figure quoted in Halim’s statement, ” Azman clarified.
He said UEM under the new shareholder Danasaham successfully listed PLUS on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange via an initial public offering in 2002 at the value of RM12.75bil, then pared down PLUS’ debts substantially to RM7.2bil.
He also dismissed the notion that private companies could run PLUS more efficiently, stating that PLUS is considered the largest and most experienced toll concessionaire in South-East Asia.
“It is also among the top-10 toll highway companies in the world, and always benchmarks itself against the yardstick of operational and cost excellence, ” Azman said.
PLUS manages over 1,100km of highways with 8,303 slopes, two tunnels, 741 bridges (including major bridges like the First Penang Bridge, JB causeway and Linkedua) and 6,187 drainage/culverts, all of which need constant maintenance, with PLUS undertaking more than 10,000 inspections annually.
“We continue to rejuvenate and enhance our 29 rest and service areas as well as 50 lay-bys, four overhead bridge restaurants, 114 interchanges, 104 toll plazas and 1,212 toll lanes, of which the cost of maintenance works and upgrading projects are fully borne by PLUS, ” he said.
Azman stressed that PLUS has not increased its toll rates in 14 years since 2005 and the current toll rate per kilometer on the North-South Expressway and ELITE Highway is one of the lowest in Malaysia.
“The profits received by PLUS are distributed to its shareholders, the Employees Provident Fund and Khazanah, via its wholly owned subsidiary, UEM Group, to benefit EPF contributors of about 14 million members including the rakyat and the government, ” he said.
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