Report claims PH broke up due to bickering over PLUS takeover

The PH government reduced toll rates by 18% in January after rejecting all offers to take over PLUS Malaysia.

PETALING JAYA: A conflict within Pakatan Harapan leaders on Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s plan to let conglomerate Maju Group to take over PLUS Malaysia Bhd has been cited by Bloomberg as one of the reasons for the break-up of his coalition last week.

The report, quoting an unnamed source, said the proposal was opposed by DAP “because of Maju Group’s track record and its close relationship with Mahathir”.

“In the end, the administration rejected all bids for PLUS and restructured concessions to reduce highway fares instead of eliminating them,” said the report.

FMT cannot independently verify the claim.

In January, Putrajaya decided not to sell highways owned by PLUS spaning over 800km, including the North-South Expressway (NSE), the New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE), the ELITE highway and the Penang Bridge.

Instead, Mahathir announced that PLUS would remain with its two owners – the government’s sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional which owns 51% through UEM Group, and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) which owns 49%, with toll rates reduced by 18% and an assurance of no hikes for the next 30 years.

Putrajaya had earlier 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 which made the bidding through 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.

The Bloomberg report claims that Maju “was so confident it would be approved that it had begun approaching banks for funding, even before a decision was to be made at a Jan 9 Cabinet meeting”

After the government’s decision was announced, Maju Group’s executive chairman Abu Sahid Mohamed accused Khazanah of not informing his company of the decision earlier.

“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 had told FMT.

The Pakatan Harapan government collapsed last week after a group of MPs broke ranks to form a new coalition with the backing of Umno, PAS and GPS.

Following a week-long impasse, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong yesterday swore in Muhyiddin Yassin as the eighth prime minister, amid what was seen as an indecisive PH on its prime ministerial nominee.

Meanwhile, the Bloomberg report claims another factor which broke up PH was on plans to turn around companies such as Malaysia Airlines and FGV Holdings.

It further claims that the RM20 billion stimulus package announced by Mahathir last week was tweaked from the original version prepared by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.