Mega deals in the balance after PH’s fall from power, says report

Pakatan Harapan had planned to acquire four intercity toll highways owned by Gamuda Bhd for RM6.2 billion.

PETALING JAYA: The fate of several proposed billion-ringgit government acquisitions and corporate mergers tied to government-linked companies is now in limbo following the change of government, reports Singapore’s Straits Times.

In its report today, the daily said the growing uncertainty facing Malaysia’s corporate sector “highlights the deep ties between business and politics” in the country.

It said one “near-certain” casualty, according to analysts and financial executives in the know, would be the plan by the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led administration to acquire four intercity toll highways owned by Gamuda Bhd for RM6.2 billion.

“The proposed takeover of the toll assets, which was aggressively promoted by former finance minister Lim Guan Eng, was not only opposed by the then-opposition parties that now form the government, but was also rejected by several members of the PH coalition,” it said.

Lim leads DAP, which runs Penang where Gamuda is spearheading the controversial RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan.

The plan includes the creation of three artificial islands, an undersea tunnel, a pan-island highway and a light rail transit network.

“Critics have long alleged that the takeover of the toll concessions was aimed at raising funding for the transport plan,” the report said, adding that the proposed takeover also faces regulatory restrictions.

Other deals which could also be axed include the proposed merger between property giants UEM Sunrise, owned by sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional, and debt-laden Eco World Development Group which tycoon Syed Mokhtar Albukhary allegedly controls.

Another is the proposed merger between Syed Mokhtar’s plantations company Tradewinds and FGV Holdings, which is majority-owned by the government through Felda Holdings.

“Government officials said that Syed Mokhtar had been aggressively lobbying (then-prime minister) Dr Mahathir Mohamad in recent months to get both deals approved.

“But with last week’s change in government, administration officials said that the boards of both Khazanah and Felda will be free for the time being from any political interference,” it said.