KUALA LUMPUR: Lots of proposals are coming in for the acquisition of Plus Malaysia Bhd, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“But we have to evaluate, and we have to make sure government money is used wisely… not because we want to protect the government or (we are) against certain leaders.
“It must be valued properly. If the private sector's bid is good, we will consider,” he said after launching the International Greentech and Eco Products Exhibition and Conference Malaysia.
News reports had earlier claimed that Hong Kong-based private equity firm RRJ Capital had proposed RM3 billion bid for Plus, and if the bid was successful, the company would reduce toll rates by 20 per cent across the board.
However, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said there were other proposals from Khazanah Nasional Bhd on Plus Malaysia Bhd takeover, deemed as more attractive and beneficial to the rakyat.
Meanwhile, Maju Holdings Sdn Bhd, in its amended proposal, offered the government RM3.49 billion to acquire Plus.
It also announced that the new proposal would entail 25 per cent to 36 per cent reductions in toll fares.
Maju also said it would absorb the RM2.7 billion compensation that the government has to fork out in the case of a takeover as Putrajaya owes Plus the amount.
The renewed offer follows Dr Mahathir’s earlier statement that the government would be willing to sell the toll highway concessionaire if the offer received was suitable.
He had also said that immediate toll abolition cannot be carried out as it requires purchases to be made by the government.
Dr Mahathir said this based on an in-depth study which revealed that the government would need to fork out tens of billions of ringgit to take over tolled highways immediately, and spend billions of ringgit more on maintenance.
He also said that even if toll is abolished, it would still take time to alleviate the people's financial burden.
In its 14th General Election manifesto, Pakatan Harapan pledged, among others, to review all highway concession agreements and negotiate to get the best deals to take over each toll concession, with the ultimate objective to abolish toll in stages.
Dr Mahathir said when national debts were paid, government funds would still be insufficient for key infrastructure development, (especially) if the costs of purchasing and maintaining highways are added to the government's operational and development expenditure.
"After a study, it was found that the government can't afford to fulfil the people's requests for projects if it is saddled with the cost of maintaining highways," Dr Mahathir said.
He also said that while the toll concessions by the government could make a profit, Dr Mahathir conceded this might not be the case for all of them.