Manufacturers group disavows role in Penang Port takeover bid
KUALA LUMPUR, July 27 ― The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) today said that it was not involved in a proposed takeover of Penang Port.
The manufacturers group was refuting a report yesterday that it would be part of a new consortium formed to take over the federal government-owned port.
“FMM wishes to state that it is not a party to (a bid to) take over any port,” it wrote in a press statement today, adding that “it is not part of FMM’s core business to invest in ports.”
However, the group expressed support for “greater transparency in disclosure of the merits and demerits of privatisation and the calling of open tenders in the event privatisation is considered the best option.”
Yesterday, Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce president Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping said a consortium would be formed to put in a bid rivalling tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary’s Seaport Terminal (Johor) Sdn Bhd.
Tan had said that the consortium comprised FMM and the different chambers of commerce ― Malay, Chinese, and Indian― in Penang, and added that their bid will first need the Ministry of Finance’s approval.
Explaining the rationale of the bid, Tan suggested that concentrating control of the country’s ports in the hands a single firm would invite anti-competitive behaviour.
“If a person or company takes control of two large commercial ports, he will inevitably sacrifice the interests of one party to protect the other party. This move is obviously against the Competition Act 2010,” Tan said.
Both state Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders have voiced their disapproval to the Finance Ministry’s plan to sell the port to Syed Mokhtar’s Seaport Terminal, which also runs the Port of Tanjung Pelepas and Johor Port, over fears that Penang could be reduced from a northern shipping hub to a feeder port.
Penang Chief Minister Lim wrote to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in early December 2010 to put in a bid to run the port, which has declined since the Ministry of Finance took over in 1994.
But Putrajaya had in June confirmed that Seaport Terminal had won the bid to take Penang port private, saying that the firm must foot the bill of dredging work although it was not specified if dredging would be compulsory under the concession.
The Penang government had demanded that Putrajaya undertake a promised RM353 million dredging project crucial for the port’s expansion.