KUALA LUMPUR: PLUS Malaysia Bhd (PLUS) today clarified the misleading and inaccurate claims on the company’s debt made by a businessman in a media report.
PLUS managing director Datuk Azman Ismail (pix) said the report, among others, mentioned that PLUS’ debt had folded almost 10 times the tender price of RM3.4 billion set in 1988, and only RM700 million of the debt had been paid.
The report also questioned where the cash from the company’s annual revenue went.
“Among the inaccurate statements was that businessman (Tan Sri Halim Saad) alleged that when he left PLUS operation nine years ago, the borrowings only stood at RM6 billion, five times less the operator’s current debt,” he said in a statement today.
The article also questioned the organisation’s efficiency, saying “Private companies can run PLUS more efficiently”.
Commenting on the matter, Azman said when Syarikat Danasaham Sdn Bhd (which later transferred all assets to Khazanah Nasional Bhd) took over UEM Group Bhd (UEMG) from Renong Bhd and privatised UEMG in 2001, PLUS was a wholly-owned subsidiary of UEMG and was already a debt-ridden company with borrowings of RM16.5 billion on its balance sheet as at Dec 31, 2001.
“This amount is almost three times higher than the figure quoted in Halim’s statement.
“Subsequently, UEMG, under new shareholder, Danasaham, successfully listed PLUS on the Main Board of the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE) (now Bursa Malaysia) via an initial public offering in 2002 at the value of RM12.75 billion. This pared down PLUS’s debt to RM7.2 billion,“ he said.
He said PLUS was listed for nine years and during that period, it expanded its business through acquisitions of brownfield highways together with their borrowings which included the North-South Expressway Central Link (ELITE) and Malaysia-Singapore Second Link Highway (Linkedua).
PLUS was later taken private in November 2011 under a joint offer from UEMG and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), based on approved valuation of RM23.0 billion, to address the conflicting pressures between the foreign/institutional investors and various stakeholders arising from the toll rate hike issue.
Hence, he said to fund the privatisation cost of RM23.0 billion, as well as refinancing of PLUS’ borrowings of RM11.5 billion, the toll concessionaire issued an enlarged Islamic sukuk of RM30.6 billion in January 2012.
Azman said PLUS’ board of directors realised that the company was facing growing competition from other emerging highways, public transport system and disruptions in digital technology.
Hence, the board took the decision to recruit the best talents and adopted a new business plan which included optimising non-toll revenue and operational cost efficiency within the organisation.
“The company continues to drive investment in the latest technologies towards the development of smart highways for the benefit of all customers.
“PLUS is considered not only the largest and most experienced toll concessionaire in Southeast Asia, but also among the top 10 toll highway companies in the world, and always benchmarks itself against the yardstick of operational and cost excellence,” he said.
According to a recent benchmarking report, PLUS excelled in operations, as well as mechanical and electrical maintenance, and performed better than its domestic peers.
The dynamic toll system which is being developed by PLUS will reduce bottlenecks during peak hours. Through this latest technology, real-time information on road and weather conditions in the future will be made available to all highway customers.
“For information, PLUS manages over 1,100km of highways with 8,303 slopes, two tunnels (Meru and Menora), 741 bridges (including major bridges such as first Penang Bridge, Johor Bahru causeway and Linkedua) and 6,187 drainage/culverts, all of which need constant maintenance,” he said.
Besides that, PLUS also rejuvenates and enhance its 29 rest and service areas, 50 laybys, four overhead bridge restaurants, 114 interchanges, 104 toll plazas and 1,212 toll lanes continuously, of which the cost of maintenance work and upgrading are fully borne by the company.
It was worth noting that PLUS had not increased its toll rates for 14 years since 2005 and the current toll rate per km for the North-South Expressway and Elite is one of the lowest in the country, he explained.
The profits received by PLUS is distributed to its shareholders, EPF and Khazanah, the sovereign wealth fund of Malaysia (via its wholly-owned subsidiary, UEMG) to benefit EPF contributors (14 million members), that is, the rakyat and the government. — Bernama