KOTA KINABALU: The state government will take ownership of Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) with no immediate plans to privatise it, says Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.
The Parti Warisan Sabah president said a special task force comprising state and federal representatives would be set up immediately to speed up the return of the loss-making utility company from major shareholder Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB).
However, Mohd Shafie said discussions over SESB's transfer of ownership need to be carried out carefully as the company had a lot of liabilities.
"We have already appointed a consultant to assess the company's financial liabilities to ensure we would be able to manage the loans and liabilities, which are almost RM2bil.
"That's a lot, so we must know how to manage it. I will discuss it with Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng," he said after launching the Dragon, Unicorn and Lion Dance Festival at Stadium Likas here on Saturday (Jan 19).
Mohd Shafie said SESB was an important unit in Sabah's development and industrialisation efforts as the power sector attracts many investments.
More than just luring investors, however, state ownership over SESB will ensure that those living in rural areas would have access to electricity, he added.
"Many villages in the rural areas have yet to get electricity supply, even though Sabah has long achieved independence.
"Some still have to depend on generators for electricity, while others live in darkness," he related.
Mohd Shafie said while it would not be easy to restructure the company, it is the state government's responsibility to administer it properly and ensure that there were no leakages, as well as lessen its debts.
On Friday (Jan 18), Energy, Science Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin announced that the federal government had agreed in principle to return the ailing SESB to Sabah, 34 years after the state government ceded its powers over the energy company.