The Malaysian government has not set a time frame for the takeover of four highways from Gamuda Bhd, said finance minister Lim Guan Eng. An announcement on the matter would only be made once all the goals of the takeover have been met, Bernama reported Lim as saying.

The first condition is that the takeover should not impose any further debt burden and debt service repayment upon the country, the second is to have savings for the government by not having to pay compensation, and the third is to bring savings to the people via reduced toll rates, the finance minister said.

In June, the government had offered RM6.2 billion for the takeover of Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong (LDP), Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat (Sprint), Lebuhraya Shah Alam (Kesas) and the Smart Tunnel. Gamuda’s board of directors voted shortly thereafter to accept the government’s offer, and though it was put on hold in July, the takeover plan has been given the go-ahead at the tabling of Budget 2020.

This was a plan that was first mentioned in February when the prime minister’s office noted its promise in its election manifesto to take steps to acquire highway concessions and abolish toll collection in stages, in accordance to the terms of the concession agreement.

The RM6.2 billion takeover of the four highways will be financed through bond issuance, with congestion charges set to help pay off the debt. This new congestion charge system is expected to apply from January 1, 2020. Lim said during the Budget tabling that the government hopes to abolish the toll system altogether, though nominal charges may still be imposed to cover operational and maintenance costs.

Meanwhile for PLUS Malaysia, the country’s largest tolled highway operator, its managing director Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan stated that sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional has no intention of selling PLUS, though it continues to attract suitors, the latest with the renewed offer from Widad Business Group at RM5.3 billion for a 100% equity interest acquisition, following offers from three other parties.