PM Says to Consider Offers for Plus, MAS, but Khazanah Says Not Selling Plus

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Malaysia will listen to any offers for Plus Malaysia Berhad and Malaysia Airlines Berhad as long as they fulfil national interests, said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“The government will study all offers. If the offers are in line with our interests, we will look at them,” he said at the Parliament lobby yesterday morning.

He was responding to questions on the offers for Plus Malaysia for its network of tolled highways and ailing national carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAS).

It was reported last week that a consortium led by Asian private equity group RRJ Capital had proposed to buy Plus Malaysia for RM3 billion.

Its proposal to Khazanah Nasional Berhad included a commitment to cut toll rates by 20% across the board.

Plus is 51% owned by engineering infrastructure and services firm UEM Group Berhad, a subsidiary of Khazanah. The Employees Provident Fund owns the rest.

Dr Mahathir said Khazanah has received many offers for Malaysia Airlines.

Seth Akmal/TMI

“I haven’t spoken to them. But there are many contenders, including local companies. It is up to Khazanah to decide.”

He was also asked if there were an offer from Japan Airlines to buy MAS.

Dr Mahathir said it is up to Petronas to decide to tie up with Saudi Arabia-owned petroleum company Aramco.

“That depends on Petronas. Not me.”

It was reported last week, that Saudi Aramco had approached Petronas and China-owned Sinopec Group on several investments in its initial public offering.

Earlier, Khazanah affirmed that it is not going to sell Plus to any party.

The remarks of its MD Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan contradicted those made by Dr Mahathir that the Malaysian government can sell Plus to private entities on condition that the government still participates in the company’s future decision making.

Shahril said the group had rejected all takeover offers it received from local and foreign private entities for the country’s largest highway operator so far.

Ismail Che Rus

“There are many offers from different parties, but our reply to all of them is very simple – we are not interested in selling,” he said in an interview with TV3, aired on Saturday.

Shahril Ridza added that these parties were also offering to buy Plus at a much lower price than its real value.

“If you want to buy (an asset) from the EPF (Employees Provident Fund) or Khazanah, you should offer a fair market price,” he said, adding that the interested parties proposed to use the difference between the price paid and real value as toll discounts to the people.

“If you want to give discounts, it should be from your profits, not from us,” said Shahril Ridza.

He added that Khazanah as an investment arm of the government must ensure that strategic assets such as Plus are not sold to a party or individual that might only be interested in making profits without any consideration for the people.

“If Plus is making profits, it goes back to the government through Khazanah, or to Malaysians via the EPF.

“So, if you allow private parties to take over Plus, and those parties make a lot of profits, people are not going to be happy,” he added.