Halim denies making offer to take over PLUS

News Paper: 
The Star

PETALING JAYA: Businessman Tan Sri Halim Saad has denied he made any proposal to take over toll expressway operator PLUS Expressways Bhd.

“I’ve not made any proposal, it is not me,’’ he told StarBiz when contacted yesterday. Halim was the former owner of the Renong conglomerate, the previous owner of PLUS until the Government took over all the assets in late 2001.

Even UEM Group Bhd, a majority shareholder in PLUS, claimed that it had not seen any such proposal. PLUS, when contacted, also denied any knowledge of the matter.

A source close to the UEM Group said: “There was no such proposal. A check was done with the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) in the Prime Minister’s Department and there seems to be no proposal in sight.’’

“It also does not make sense to take over PLUS,’’ he added.

Singapore’s Business Times (BT), quoting sources familiar with the matter, reported yesterday a proposal to take over PLUS from the Government by former executives had been submitted for consideration to the EPU.

Although details were sketchy on how this would be done, the name of Ibrahim Bidin, a former PLUS chief executive and key lieutenant of Halim, has surfaced as among those proposing to take over the toll concessionaire.

The paper added that while Halim’s name did not surface in the proposal and he had told analysts that he was not involved, market speculation was that he could be linked to the offer.

Quoting PLUS executives, it said if the proposal were accepted, the new owners were prepared to cut toll rates by at least 20% although it seemed likely that they would also ask for an extension of the concession period.

BT said it wasn’t clear if the government would agree to PLUS’ privatisation as the toll operator was the crown jewel in the UEM conglomerate with the strongest cash flows,

The paper said this could form part of a new plan where the Government would divest some of the assets of government-linked firms like UEM and Sime Darby Bhd to private hands.

However, BT said it was not clear how the deal’s promoters planned to fund the takeover.

Khazanah Nasional Bhd directly owns 23.66% of PLUS, and a further indirect stake of 40.21% via wholly owned unit UEM Group.

At present market value, that stake is worth RM10.5bil.

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