Thursday, August 20, 2009

The 2nd Great Highway Robbery

Proposal submitted to take over Plus Expressways

from Malaysian Insider

Comments by Sarawak Headhunter in red.

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 — A proposal to take over Plus Expressways from the state by former executives of the listed highway concessionaire has been submitted for consideration to the country's powerful Economic Planning Unit which oversees privatisations.

After the first privatisation failed, how is it possible that a second privatisation, by parties who were involved in that first privatisation, is even being considered by the government? Hasn't the government learnt its lesson? Or are we about to witness another Great Highway Robbery about to take place? ALL at the expense of the Malaysian taxpayer and tollpayer.

According to executives familiar with the matter, the senior executives include Ibrahim Bidin who used to be chief executive of Plus over five years ago.

Ibrahim was also a key lieutenant of Halim Saad, the former owner of the Renong conglomerate, the previous owner of Plus until the government took over all the assets in late 2001.

This means that Ibrahim Bidin was instrumental in helping Halim to rob Plus - on behalf of Daim Zainuddin, Mahathir and UMNO - it must be said, and to cover up that robbery as well.

Halim's name, however, does not surface in the proposal although the market speculation is that he could be linked to the offer. But the tycoon has told some analysts that he isn't involved.

Even if Halim really isn't involved this time, what about Daim Zainuddin on behalf of Najib? This is not mere speculation, as Sarawak Headhunter will make clear below. Halim was in any event nothing more than a highly-paid glorified nominee for Daim Zainuddin. The pertinent question now is who is Ibrahim Bidin going to be a highly-paid glorified nominee for?

No details of the offer were immediately available but the executives said that if the proposal was accepted, the new owners of Plus were prepared to cut toll rates by at least 20 per cent. It seems likely, however, that they would also ask for an extension of the concession period.

With the kind of cashflow that Plus has, they can very well afford to cut the toll rates, but we better believe that they are not going to do anyone any favours by doing this, palatable though it may sound - it is just a trick.

They will undoubtedly get much more back from the extension of the concession period, but then again we must not be so naive as to believe that they will wait for the extension period to commence the robbery.

The robbery will commence immediately and will go into full gear when they can leverage the future earnings from the toll collections over the extended concession period. This was partly how it was done earlier. The same modus operandi will probably be used again.

It isn't clear if the government would agree to Plus's privatisation: it is the crown jewel in the United Engineers conglomerate — the former Renong group — with the strongest cash flows.

How else would Najib maintain his power and position in UMNO? And how else would Najib and UMNO be able to steal the next General Elections from Pakatan Rakyat?

The vast amounts of money (tens of billions) which Daim Zainuddin siphoned off from Plus and other corporate vehicles - which were supposed to be UMNO's but became only UMNO-linked through nominees like Halim Saad after the deliberate demise of the old UMNO (masterfully engineered by Zaki Tun Azmi) - was what kept Mahathir and UMNO in power for so long.

Now Najib out of desperation is trying to steal a page from this old book so that both he and UMNO can stay in power.

How much Daim Zainuddin used for this purpose and how much he kept for himself is another story. As far as Sarawak Headhunter is concerned, Daim Zainuddin is Malaysian Public Enemy no. 1 (Mahathir is only no. 2 and Taib Mahmud no. 3).

The tens of billions which they intend to rob through this and other piratisation schemes will be used to bribe the whole hierarchy of UMNO to maintain the status quo during each UMNO party elections and also the Malaysian voters as a whole during general elections.

Moves are right now being put into motion for Najib's men to take over all the money-making apparatus of the Government, especially Khazanah and PETRONAS.

According to the executives, however, it could form part of a new plan where the government would divest some of the assets of government-linked companies like United Engineers and Sime Darby to private hands.

Don't say we were not warned or we were not aware of what they planned to do. They have already done it under Mahathir's regime and they will continue to do it under Najib's regime.

This 2nd Great Highway Robbery will be done in broad daylight, in full view of the Malaysian public and will be executed by these executive nominees like Ibrahim Bidin with the connivance of a compliant administration and lawyers, accountants, merchant bankers, stock brokers and supposed government regulators as co-conspirators.

All will be done in the name of "Malay" interests and anyone who denounces it will be counter-denounced as a "traitor" to the Malay race.

It also isn't clear how the deal's promoters plan to fund it. The firm, which principally operates a highway traversing the length of Peninsular Malaysia, made a net profit of RM1.1 billion on revenues of almost RM3 billion.

This is "kacang" as they say, after all don't they also control the banks and other government investment agencies who would be more than willing to fund it, since they can justify - at least on paper - its viability? Paper losses will be taken care of later of course - the theory being that since they will still control Parliament and thus the Federal Government, this will also be "kacang".

Peanuts to them, hundreds of billions to the rest of the Malaysian people.

Will enough number of Malaysian voters continue to be fooled or bribed into giving these crooks - who hide behind the name of the Malays and Islam - yet another mandate in the coming Sarawak State Elections or in the next General Elections?

It is 64 per cent owned by United Engineers which is itself wholly owned by Khazanah Nasional, the investment agency of the federal government. At present market values, that 64 per cent is worth RM10.5 billion.

The North-South Expressway was completed in the 1990s by Halim's Renong group. The tycoon leveraged the tolled road into a bewildering slew of businesses from telecommunications and banking to construction and infrastructure.

Take note of the key word above - "leveraged". The mastermind behind all this was not Halim but Daim Zainuddin.

Indeed, Halim, now 55, helped create modern Malaysia. Renong, which at its peak had assets of over RM40 billion, built highways, sport stadiums, bridges and mass rapid transit systems. But the group also racked up debt of over RM20 billion which left it vulnerable to the Asian financial crisis.

The amount was closer to RM25 billion. How could a conglomerate with assets of over RM40 billion rack up debts or rather losses of close to RM25 billion? This was the amount that was siphoned off by Daim Zainuddin, less maybe a couple of billion for mismanagement expenses.

In late 2001, after Halim had unsuccessfully tried out various restructuring schemes, Kuala Lumpur lost patience and effectively nationalised Renong by taking over affiliate company United Engineers.

It wasn't a simple matter of losing patience, the government nationalisation was the cover-up. Hasn't anyone wondered why with the government taking over, the tolls still kept on increasing, the reason always being given that otherwise the government would would have to compensate the toll operator?

If the government now owns the toll operator, why would it have to compensate itself?

The answer is that they are still covering up, now using government money - the people's money - of course, the latest "compensation" recoverable as at 30th June this year being RM2.18 billion, according to this report in the Star.

Only in Malaysia could the ruling elites have engineered such a perfect crime and get away with it and still lay claim to the gratitude of the Malays in whose name it was committed but who have benefited only marginally.

But sooner or later they will have to answer for all that they have done. Judgment Day will come and they may find themselves on the Highway to Hell. The toll will be their souls.

Halim stepped down from the board and has since adopted a low profile although he continues to run businesses in Malaysia and abroad. — Business Times Singapore

The latest heard of him is that he has teamed up with another former Daim Zainuddin nominee, Samsuddin Abu Hassan. Is Daim still pulling their strings and also that of Ibrahim Bidin?

Keep a watch out Malaysia, be very very careful and ever vigilant!

No comments: