THE recent RM6.2 billion privatisation deal involving four intra-city toll roads in the Klang Valley linked to Gamuda Bhd has turned the spotlight on the major highway concessionaires, especially those that are ultimately owned by Bursa Malaysia-listed companies.
Last week, Gamuda said it was in favour of accepting the federal government’s offer to take over Lingkaran Trans Kota Holdings Bhd (Litrak), Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat Holdings Sdn Bhd (SPRINT), Kesas Sdn Bhd and Projek SMART Holdings Sdn Bhd.
There are 29 toll highways in the country and the total cost of taking over all the toll concessions is estimated at around RM130 billion to RM145 billion, inclusive of about RM52 billion in debt. The total annual cost of maintaining these toll roads is roughly RM1.5 billion to RM2.5 billion.
So, who are the toll road operators in Malaysia? More importantly, who are the major shareholders of these highway concessionaires?
It is worth noting that some of the major toll companies are government-linked entities. The largest is PLUS Malaysia Bhd, in which UEM Group Bhd — a wholly-owned subsidiary of sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd — holds a 51% stake. The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) holds the remaining 49%.
PLUS Malaysia operates some of the most lucrative highways in the country, including the North-South Expressway (NSE), which has the longest route of 748km and the highest traffic volume of 550 million vehicles a year.
Meanwhile, the four highways involved in the government’s talks with Gamuda are Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP), the SPRINT highway, the Shah Alam Expressway (Kesas) and the Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART).
Locally listed Litrak, in which construction giant Gamuda owns a 43.58% stake, is the concessionaire for LDP and the SPRINT highway.
Gamuda holds a direct 70% stake in the Kesas highway while Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor (PKNS) owns the remaining 30%.
SMART is jointly owned by Gamuda and MMC Corp Bhd, a publicly traded company that is 51.76%-controlled by businessman Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary.
The conglomerate IJM Corp Bhd operates the Sungai Besi Expressway (Besraya), the New Pantai Expressway (NPE) and the Kajang-Seremban Expressway (Lekas).
Interestingly, Gamuda and IJM Corp have common major shareholders in the EPF, AmanahRaya Trustees Bhd-Skim Amanah Saham Bumiputera and Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan) (KWAP).
Projek Lintasan Kota Holdings Sdn Bhd (Prolintas) — which is wholly owned by state unit trust company Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) — holds the concessions for the Ampang-Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway (AKLEH), the Guthrie Corridor Expressway (GCE), Lebuhraya Kemuning-Shah Alam (LKSA), the Kajang Silk Highway (SILK), the Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Elevated Expressway (SUKE) and the Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Expressway (DASH).
SUKE and DASH are currently under construction.
It is also worth noting that some of the toll highway concessionaires are ultimately controlled by local businessmen. For instance, Maju Expressway Sdn Bhd, which operates the Maju Expressway (MEX) that links the Kuala Lumpur city centre to Cyberjaya and Putrajaya, is controlled by Tan Sri Abu Sahid Mohamad of Maju Holdings Sdn Bhd. In 2017, the business tycoon proposed, unsuccessfully, to take over PLUS in a deal worth more than RM30 billion. But he has not thrown in the towel and has put in a revised proposal.
Meanwhile, DUKE is operated by Ekovest Bhd, a civil engineering and building construction firm controlled by Tan Sri Lim Kang Hoo, the 27th richest man in Malaysia with a net worth of US$710 million.
There is also the Kuala Lumpur-Kuala Selangor Expressway (LATAR Expressway), which is operated by Bina Puri Holdings Bhd, a diversified group owned by construction industry veteran Tan Sri Tee Hock Seng.
Taliworks Corp Bhd and the EPF jointly own the Grand Saga Highway and the Grand Sepadu Highway.
Datuk Lim Chee Meng is the controlling shareholder of Taliworks with a 53.82% stake, of which 49.89% is held through LGB Holdings Sdn Bhd, an investment vehicle of LGB Group.
According to the Malaysian Highway Authority’s annual report 2017, traffic volume recorded on the toll highways in Malaysia increased 0.89% to 1.844 billion vehicles in 2017, up from 1.828 billion vehicles in 2016. Among the contributing factors to the increase in traffic volume was the opening of several new interchanges on the highways.
Twenty-one of the highways experienced higher traffic volume in 2017 compared with 2016 with the increase ranging from 0.27% to 120.67%. Ten highways saw lower traffic volume with the decrease ranging from 1.2% to 9.2%.
The decline in traffic volume on several highways in the Klang Valley was also influenced by additional public transport facilities provided by the government such as the LRT, comprising the Ampang, Kelana Jaya and Sri Petaling lines, and the full operation of the MRT Sungai Buloh-Kajang line in July 2017.