Prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has revealed that the government is ready to review any bids to purchase PLUS Malaysia, according to a recent report by Bernama. This comes after Khazanah Nasional managing director Datuk Shahril Riza Ridzuan’s earlier statement on October 5, whereby he said Malaysia’s largest highway operator was not for sale.

“Any bid by anyone will be reviewed by the government, [and] if it complies with our needs, we will entertain their request,” said Mahathir during a media conference at Parliament today. He added that the government has adopted an open approach to any bidding, and any decisions made are dependant on the country’s need and suitability.

The premier was also asked if the sale of assets such as PLUS would affect the nation’s income, to which he replied, “we have a committee to look into debt and repayment issues. It will make any proposal to reduce the country’s debt.”

A few parties have expressed their interest in purchasing PLUS, including Maju Holdings, with the local company offering an effective purchase price of RM3.5 billion – RM2 billion in cash and the balance a waiver of RM1.5 billion in compensation due from the government.

More recently, RRJ Capital, a Malaysian-led, Hong Kong-based private equity firm, made a bid of RM3 billion cash to acquire a 100% equity interest in the highway concessionaire. The company has since increased its bid to RM3.5 billion – as reported by NST – and said it is willing to form a 50:50 partnership with government institutional funds or private companies to own and manage PLUS.

RRJ Capital also plans to introduce a smart tolling system that uses artificial intelligence to track vehicle number plates to determine if motorists are qualified for toll discounts. This works following a tiered toll discount system, with different discount rates depending on the price of the vehicle. Richard Ong, RRJ Capital chairman, said the discounts would see toll reductions of over RM1 billion a year based on new car prices.