KUALA LUMPUR: PLUS Malaysia Bhd has attracted another company keen on taking over the country’s largest highway operator.
Little-known Widad Business Group has offered to buy either a 51 per cent stake or a 100 per cent stake in PLUS, which is now held by Khazanah Nasional Bhd and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF).
Widad said it had made two offer options – acquiring 51 per cent of Khazanah's interests at RM1.5 billion in cash, with the remaining interest held by the EPF, or acquiring 100 per cent of Khazanah and EPF's interests at RM3 billion cash.
In a statement, the group said the proposed takeover was submitted to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Works Ministry as well as the Economic Affairs Ministry on Oct 9.
The highways involved in the PLUS concession are the North-South Expressway, Second Link Expressway, Penang Bridge, North South Expressway Central Link, Butterworth - Kulim Expressway and Seremban - Port Dickson Highway.
The two deals included a RM2.7 billion government remittance resulting from the abolition of tolls at Plaza Batu Tiga and Bukit Kayu Hitam.
The offer has taken into account the additional concession period of 20 years from the date the existing concession ends.
In this regard, Widad said, the first option was seen as more viable as it focused on private public partnership.
The group said it had also identified global strategic partners and investors to provide funds for the potential acquisition.
This is in addition to the company's internal funds and proposals to raise funds through sukuk and equity issues.
Widad Goup executive chairman Tan Sri Muhammad Ikmal Opat Abdullah said if the company succeeds in taking over the concession, it would reduce the toll rate by 25 to 40 per cent.
“The reduction in toll rates is in line with the government's intention to reduce the burden on highway users, thus fulfilling government manifesto and meeting current government policy requirements,” he said.
Widad said it intends to exempt the government from paying compensation of RM338.5 million to PLUS that was overdue on Dec 31, 2018.
“We will upgrade existing facilities, implement the use of artificial intelligence technology to improve smoothness and traffic management besides ensuring that there are no layoffs in the five years following the acquisition,” he said.