There is currently a hullaboo concerning the privatisation of Penang Port Sdn Bhd, which is located in the Malaysian state of Penang, controlled by the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance).

This is because the UMNO led Federal government has decided to award the privatisation to known UMNO croney, Syed Mokhtar Albukary.

The original plan was for the port (under the company’s watch) to be dredged in order to cater for larger ships.

The latest about turn is seen as another attempt to thwart the sterling economic progress of Penang state under the Chief Ministership of Lim Guan Eng.

Whilst the decision whether to privatise or otherwise is moot……the fact that Syed Mokhtar is in the picture does not make good reading for any fence-sitter either!

This Syed Mokhtar has been given crown jewels by the government on a silver platter……which he subsequently sells, for cash and shares, to public listed companies……the latter of which he then controls e.g. MMC, Malakoff, DRB-Hicom.

Remember the Senai land that was compulsorily acquired by the government (original land-owners included the OCBC group) and then ‘sold’ to Syed Mokhtar under the SAT (Senai Airport Terminal) deal?

No one has officially done any calculation of the net gains made by this Syed Mokhtar in all these ‘deals’ but it can certainly be conservatively estimated in the billions of ringgit!

There is no denying that Syed Mokhtar, besides being a well known philanthropist, is also a ‘significant monetary contributor’ to the UMNO cause.

Sure, he delivered to a certain degree……in the form of the Port of Tanjong Pelepas (PTP) in Johor which cause  a few ripples over in Singapore when shipping giant, Maersk, took a stake in PTP.

But what has been the progress of PTP since then?

Have they come anywhere close or progressed significantly in growth terms compared to Singapore or Hongkong…….with respect to the containers handled at PTP i.e. the Twenty foot equivalents (TEUs) vis a vis that of Singapore or Hongkong?

Syed Mokhtar’s selection as a rising star by Mahathir then was similar to that of Ting Pek Khing (of Ekran infamy), when the latter completed the construction of a hotel in Langkawi in apparent record time.

After that, all sorts of contracts were awarded to him… though he had the midas touch. Just look at the ‘carcass’ companies he left behind after the economic crisis in the late 1990s.

Another one that comes to mind is Rashid Hussain, who at that time, could do no wrong in the financial/stockbroking industry.

He was then given the right to take over D&C Bank which he renamed RHB Bank….minus his partner, Chua Ma Yu.

He was even subsequently awarded the contract to manage the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur! He then went into property development …… remember Wawasan City near Kampung Baru?

And what happened of him?

He was ‘marginalised’ after allegations of shorting the ringgit surfaced against him also in the economic crisis of the late 1990s.

As for Halim Saad…….wasn’t he the one that triggered the economic crisis of the late 1990s…..with him causing United Engineers to acquire the Renong shares at a price deemed excessive by the market?

Although moves were made to recover the sums from him, it never materialised!

So now we have this Syed Mokhtar who was also recently given the right to privatise the car maker Proton.

What was startling was that with a purported net asset of RM5.2 billion, the Syed Mokhtar company of DRB-Hicom only expended about RM3.0 billion to privatise Proton.

Of course, one could attribute it to the prevailing share price.

The flip side of it is that the extra RM2.0 billion in Proton’s books were assets in Proton’s books… which DRB-Hicom was somehow not prepared to pay for!

On top of that, you have Proton’s Glenmarie land that has been spiking in value…..due to the development carried out in that area.

Should Proton’s car assembly operations be moved to its Tanjong Malim plant (which is considerably under-utilised), the development potential on the Glenmarie land is massive…..gross development value for property development would be in excess of RM10 billion?

Is it any wonder then why the government passed it on to Syed Mokhtar?

Is it also any wonder why the privatisation of Penang Port to Syed Mokhtar is seen so negatively?

Click HERE on the rejection of the privatisation by the Penang State government.

Benefits appear only to accrue to cronies…not the people!



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