PLUS not for sale, says Dr M

Dr Mahathir Mohamad says the Cabinet decided not to sell PLUS at its meeting yesterday.

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad says the government has decided not to proceed with the sale of highway concessionaire PLUS Malaysia Bhd.

Mahathir said the decision was made at a Cabinet meeting yesterday.

“We have studied all the bids made by the private sector and, in the end, we decided that the best way is not to sell PLUS to anyone but to retain it with Khazanah and EPF,” he told reporters at an event here today.

Mahathir said toll rates will be reduced by 18% from this year with no hikes for the next 30 years, although he did not give an exact date when this will commence.

“Traffic may increase but the value, the purchasing power of the ringgit, will go down. So what they (the concessionaires) earn afterwards is not as big as people think they’re going to make.

“We’re doing it at the present rate and it will be a flat rate, minus 18%. That means although traffic may grow, the earnings will not be as big as the original concession,” he said.

He said the decision would mean lower costs for the people as the toll rates would remain the same for the next 30 years as the value of the ringgit goes down. [Editor’s note: The Prime Minister’s Office has since clarified that the period is 20 years.]

The government had received five offers for PLUS, the country’s largest highway operator, managing over 1,100km of highway.

Government sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd owns 51% of PLUS through UEM Group Bhd and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) holds the remaining 49%.

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.

The government previously said it would study any proposal to acquire PLUS if it met the country’s demands and benefited motorists with lower toll rates.