Gamuda falls sharply after government announces talks to acquire highways

The LDP is one of four highways which the government is looking to acquire from Gamuda Bhd. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Toll concessionaire Gamuda Bhd fell sharply in early trade this morning after the government announced over the weekend that it was in talks to acquire four highways from the company.

At 9.50am, the counter fell by 8.88% or 27 sen to RM2.77 with 17.3 million shares changing hands.

Ambank Research said in a report that even if the company strikes a good deal with the government, it will require time to identify a new business to fill the vacuum.

The government has commenced talks with Gamuda for the acquisition of Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong (LDP), Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat (Sprint), Lebuhraya Shah Alam (Kesas) and the Smart Tunnel.

Gamuda has a 43.6% stake in the LDP through its stake in Lingkaran Trans Kota Holdings Bhd (Litrak). It also has an effective stake of 51.8% in the Sprint by virtue of a 30% direct stake and a 21.8% indirect stake via Litrak, which owns a 50% stake in the Sprint; a 70% direct stake in Kesas; and a 50% direct stake in the Smart Tunnel.

“Upon the successful takeover of the toll roads, the government intends to abolish the existing toll mechanism, and replace it with a ‘congestion charge’ which will go towards the operations and maintenance of the highways and repayment of borrowings (which means the exercise does not entail a restructuring of the bonds issued by the highway concessionaires),” Ambank Research said in its report.

For the six hours during the peak period of the day (yet to be defined), toll road users will pay a congestion charge equivalent to the existing toll.

For the 12 hours of the normal period, defined as other than the peak period and the off-peak period between 11pm and 5am, road users will pay a reduced congestion charge equivalent to a 30% discount to the existing toll.

For the off-peak period, the highways are toll-free. The research house said it believes that under the new structure, road users will enjoy some savings, while the highways will be able to continue funding their operation and maintenance as well as servicing their debt obligation.

The government will effectively take over the equities, and hence take back the concessions of these highways. There is no change to ownership as the government has always been the owner of these toll roads under the build, operate and transfer model.