Bidders show contrasting reactions to PLUS takeover no-go

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 16 Jan 2020

PETALING JAYA: Two parties which bid to take over toll concessionaire PLUS Malaysia Bhd showed opposing reactions to the Government's decision not to sell.

RRJ Capital, the Malaysian-led private equity firm based in Hong Kong and Singapore, said on Thursday (Jan 16) that it welcomed the Government's decision.

Earlier Thursday, the Cabinet announced its decision not to sell PLUS and extend the concession period by another 20 years until 2058, with toll charges reduced by 18%.

RRJ Capital chairman and chief executive officer Richard Ong said it was a good that the decision was made, which allowed the firm to move on.

"I think the process is fair. We will continue to study other investment opportunities in Malaysia.

"We are happy with the final decision of the Government and will move on to focus on other investments.

"It is the prerogative of the Government to divest or not," he told The Star on Thursday (Jan 16).

Ong added that the bidding was done via the Works Ministry, which engaged RRJ Capital.

The firm had in September, proposed to takeover PLUS for RM3bil, which it later upped to RM3.5bil.

RRJ Capital was founded by Ong and his younger brother Charles, who is also the company co-chairman and co-CEO.

It is one of the largest private equity firms in Asia, with some US$20bil of funds under its management, primarily from the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

RRJ Capital was among the four firms which put in bids to acquire PLUS.

The three other bids came from Tan Sri Halim Saad and Datuk Wong Gian Kui, who offered RM5.2bil via Karongsa Private Capital Sdn Bhd; Widad Business Group Sdn Bhd with an offer of RM5.3bil and a total enterprise value of RM38.34bil and Tan Sri Abu Sahid Mohamed of Maju Holdings Sdn Bhd with an enterprise value offer at RM34.9bil.

Abu Sahid, however, opined that the Cabinet's decision to extend the concession period was a mistake, claiming that his bid offered superior terms.

"My bid was put to the Khazanah Nasional chairman himself – Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad – which was 10 years' (concession period) extension with a 25% discount. How can that not be better than a 20 year extension with 18% discount?" asked Abu Sahid.

"I could have fixed lighting (issues) completely throughout the highway – but I believe my bid did not win because I can do it much cheaper than the rest of the bidders," said Abu Sahid.

Last July, Maju Holdings was said to have made a fresh proposal to take over PLUS – and offer it first made in 2017 – by forking out RM3.5bil and assuming the concessionaire's debts of about RM30bil.

The renewed offer also included discounting existing toll rates by 25% to 36%, depending on how long the concession would be extended.

Works Minister Baru Bian had even described the bid as "attractive".

Earlier, Dr Mahathir said the Cabinet decided not to sell PLUS as the bids were not attractive enough.

He said the best solution was for Khazanah Nasional and the Employees Provident Fund to retain ownership of PLUS, with 51% and 49% share respectively.

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