Construction giant offers RM3 bil for PLUS, dangles reduced toll rates

Putrajaya says it would study proposals to acquire PLUS highways if they meet the country’s demands.

KUALA LUMPUR: Widad Business Group (WBG) has offered to buy PLUS Expressways Bhd concessionaires by taking over the 51% stake owned by Khazanah Nasional Bhd for a RM1.5 billion cash consideration, or 100% of the concessionaires owned by Khazanah and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) for RM3 billion cash.

The construction conglomerate said the proposal was submitted to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Works Ministry and Ministry of Economic Affairs on Oct 9.

The highways involved in the concessionaires of PLUS Expressways Bhd are PLUS Highway, Second Link Expressway, Penang Bridge, North South Expressway Central Link, Butterworth Kulim Expressway and Seremban-Port Dickson Highway.

“In the event that Widad successfully takes over the concessionaires, the group will reduce the current toll charges by 25% to 40%.

“This is in line with the government’s manifesto to reduce the burden of the people, which we fully support. We also intend to help the government by waiving the outstanding compensation of the government to PLUS worth RM338.5 million as of Dec 31, 2018,” executive chairman, Muhammad Ikmal Opat Abdullah said.

Both offers include the waiver of toll compensation worth RM2.7 billion incurred by the government for the abolition of tolls at Plaza Batu Tiga and Bukit Kayu Hitam.

The group has also proposed to give a 50% discount for toll fares during festive seasons such as Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and Deepavali for as long as the Group deems reasonable.

Ikmal also said the group would work to refurbish the involved highway rest stops and implement new artificial intelligence technology to improve highway and traffic management, with the additional promise of not undertaking any retrenchment of staff for at least five years after the takeover.

The group has identified its global strategic partner and investor to fund the proposed acquisition, coupled with the group’s internal funds and its fundraising plan via sukuk Medium Term Note and equity issuance.

Ikmal is the founder and group leader of Widad Business Group, a corporate holding which provides jobs to more than 1,500 people throughout Malaysia.

WBG, incorporated in 2002, has since grown and diversified its activities into integrated facility management, construction, operations and maintenance, mechanical and electrical services, building automation systems, energy management, property development, education, media and ICT services, hospitality, aquaculture and oil and gas.

Earlier this week, Mahathir said that the government would study any proposal to acquire PLUS Malaysia Bhd if it met the country’s demands.

It was reported that a Malaysian-led Hong Kong-based private equity firm, RRJ Capital, had expressed interest in acquiring PLUS Malaysia Bhd for RM3.5 billion.

However, Khazanah Nasional Bhd managing director Shahril Riza Ridzuan said on Oct 6 that the company had no intention of selling its strategic assets to any party.

On the contrary, EPF, which owns a 49% stake in PLUS, said it would consider selling its stake in PLUS Malaysia Bhd, for a good offer.

Khazanah owns 51% of PLUS and EPF 49%. This followed a takeover in 2011, in a transaction valued at RM32 billion.