PETALING JAYA: The executive chairman of one of the companies bidding for PLUS Malaysia Bhd has launched a scathing attack on Khazanah Nasional managing director Shahril Ridza Ridzuan, hours after the government announced its decision not to sell the country’s largest highway operator.
Abu Sahid Mohamed of Maju Holdings called the decision “stupid”, and questioned why it was not conveyed to him despite his company being invited to make an offer.
“I don’t even know why they don’t want to sell. They didn’t tell me why they don’t want to sell,” Abu Sahid told FMT.
Earlier today, Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that the Cabinet had decided not to sell PLUS to the private sector, and that it would remain with its two owners – Khazanah, which owns 51% through UEM Group, and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) which owns 49%.
The prime minister, however, said toll rates would be reduced by 18% from this year with no hikes for the next 30 years.
The highways operated by PLUS span over 800km, including the North-South Expressway (NSE), the New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE), the ELITE highway and the Penang Bridge.
Putrajaya had previously said it would study any proposal to acquire PLUS if it met the country’s demands and benefited motorists with lower toll rates.
Besides Maju Holdings, three other proposals came from Widad Business Group, RRJ Capital as well as a joint offer by tycoons Halim Saad and Wong Gian Kui.
Today’s decision comes two days after Khazanah’s Shahril reportedly said the sovereign wealth fund had never put up PLUS’ assets for sale, and described offers from bidders as “unsolicited” as they were made to the government and not to its two shareholders.
But a furious Abu Sahid accused Shahril of lying, saying Maju Holdings was the first to write to Khazanah after being invited to make an offer.
“They must remember I was invited to quote, to bid. Not like other people who just entered without invitation,” he said.
“Why did Shahril say that? He is a liar. How can they say I was not invited and they knew nothing about us bidding? We wrote to them, we were the first to write to them.”
When contacted, Shahril stood by his remarks.
“We have never issued any invitation to bid for the asset. They were all unsolicited offers,” he told FMT.
Abu Sahid meanwhile said the government’s decision to keep PLUS was “stupid”, adding that Khazanah was “stealing money”.
He went on to call for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate Shahril.
He said his company’s cost of resurfacing highways was only one-third of Khazanah’s cost.
“They are paying RM58 per metre square for resurfacing the road. I am paying RM18.”
In its amended proposal in October last year, Maju Holdings had offered to buy PLUS for RM34.9 billion including debt.
The company said it would be able to reduce toll charges by 25% to 36%, adding that it was not seeking financial compensation from the government for the reduction.
The company had also cited its cost-effective management of the MEX Highway.
“In fact, we have one of the lowest costs per kilometre in the country. As such, we are confident we will be able to reduce maintenance costs for PLUS,” it said.