Penang ferry services to be sold in MMC plan?

MMC Corporation Berhad

PETALING JAYA: A half-stake in Penang Port is being sold to infrastructure and utilities group MMC Corporation Berhad, on condition that the port’s current operator disposes of the Penang ferry services.

The company made the announcement in a report to the stock exchange on Friday, according to The Star.

The report said MMC Corp said it had signed a conditional agreement with its majority shareholder Seaport Terminal (Johore) Sdn Bhd to acquire 49% of Penang Port Sdn Bhd for RM200 million in cash.

Seaport Terminal owns 51.7%, of MMC Corporation, which already owns several other port operations.

The agreement calls for any buyer of Penang’s ferry services to assume all costs and liabilities from the ferry operations, it said.

The Penang state government has sought to take over the ferry services between George Town and Butterworth and has held discussions with the Transport Ministry. The ferry services come under the purview of the Penang Port Commission, a statutory body under the ministry.

On Tuesday, Penang’s chief minister Lim Guan Eng questioned if the federal government’s public transport company Prasarana Malaysia Berhad, which runs the RapidKL and RapidPenang bus services, was to take over the ferry services.

In a press statement, Lim said: “When will Prasarana take over the Penang ferry service which is in need of financial stimulus to acquire new ferries and increase the presently waning frequency of trips?”

He said there were now only 60 ferry trips a day compared to 109 in 2008, and the service had incurred losses of RM252 million since 2002.

However the state government set a condition that it would not be liable for debts, nor be obliged to retain the present management.

Penang Port Sdn Bhd has a concession to operate the port until 2023 under a privatisation agreement with the federal government.

MMC said it expected to take over the port early next year.