KOTA KINABALU: Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) has called on the state government to take back Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) as the utility company has been making money over the past few years.
Warisan vice-president Junz Wong said it made sense for the Sabah government to increase its shareholding in the firm to 51% in order to obtain a controlling stake.
He said this after Deputy Chief Minister Raymond Tan revealed that the state government had offered to buy an additional 10% stake in SESB.
The proposed acquisition would increase the state government’s holdings in the utility company to about 30%.
However, Wong questioned the point of the 10% increase if the government was still unable to control SESB.
He urged Tan, who is industrial development minister, to make the 51% proposal to Chief Minister Musa Aman.
“I wish to remind all Sabahans that Musa said clearly during a legislative assembly sitting that the Sabah government considered taking back SESB but didn’t do so simply because SESB wasn’t making a profit two to three years ago.
“Now that Tan has revealed SESB’s good profit record since 2013, what’s stopping the state government from taking back SESB?” he said in a statement.
Earlier this week, Tan was reported as saying that he would not allow another review of the electricity tariff in the state despite claims that the exercise was needed to address SESB’s financial woes.
Tan said neither SESB’s majority shareholder Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB), SESB nor Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Maximus Ongkili, who made the claim, had the right to decide on the matter as it concerned the state’s constitutional rights.
Tan said the state cabinet had allowed two reviews in 2011 and 2014, which had seen SESB consistently making profits ever since.
According to the SESB financial report published on the TNB website, Tan said, SESB had been making profits in 2014 (RM96.7 million), 2015 (RM98.7 million), 2016 (RM128.7 million) and 2017 (RM44.7 million).
“I have to agree with Tan for once and thank him for uncovering the truth that in fact SESB has been making good profit all these years,” said Wong.
Wong, who is Likas assemblyman, also urged Tan to reveal how much profit each independent power producer (IPP) in Sabah makes.
“According to my source, there should be eight IPPs in Sabah, and one of them is Ranhill,” he said.
“A news article, which stated Ranhill aimed for another IPP in Sabah, revealed that the company reported a nett profit of RM37 million in the second quarter of 2016.
“An online Ranhill financial report stated that its profit before tax was RM143 million and RM185 million in 2017 and 2016 respectively.
“So it’s crucial to reveal how much IPPs have been making all these years from SESB in order to know how to restructure SESB.”
Previously, Ongkili said there was no plan to hand SESB back to the Sabah government.
He was responding to talk that SESB, said to be on the verge of bankruptcy, would be given back to the state government.
“We can, however, discuss the matter if the state government is willing to pay for SESB’s assets of RM8 billion and cover other costs borne by TNB’s subsidiary,” Ongkili said during a press conference on Dec 26.
“TNB currently holds a 82.75% stake in SESB while the rest is held by the state government.”
The minister added that his previous statement concerning SESB did not mean the power company was bankrupt, but that it was in a financially challenging situation.
He said the fact that SESB’s assets were worth RM8 billion showed that the company was still strong and could sustain itself.