LAST_UPDATEWed, 18 Jul 2018 11pm

Guess Who Became A Shareholder Of One Of ECRL Contractors After PH Wins Election. A Timely Coincidence?

Filepic: NSTFilepic: NST

"A train from Kota Baru to Port Klang would take around 14 hours of travel time.

"A low-cost flight from Kota Baru to Kuala Lumpur takes just 30 minutes.

"Which is more feasible?" Mahathir asked during a forum titled "A Talk with Tun M Series 2.0: Youths' Economy Challenges", at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in April this year.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had famously made those observations during one of his election campaign speeches when he proposed that the East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) be scrapped should Pakatan Harapan (PH) come into power.

Even after becoming Malaysia's 7th prime minister, Mahathir described the ECRL project as 'strange' and raised doubts about the existing payment arrangements with China-owned companies.

While this threat was being played out in public, other developments connected to the ECRL were taking place behind the scenes.

Berjaya Corp Bhd founder and executive chairman Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun quietly became a substantial shareholder of T7 Global Bhd, The Edge Markets reported on 16 May.

Mahathir at his 90th birthday party hosted by Tan Sri Vincent Tan at Manhattan Ballroom, Berjaya Time Square Hotel Kuala Lumpur in 2015. Pic: La JuiceriaMahathir at his 90th birthday party hosted by Tan Sri Vincent Tan at Manhattan Ballroom, Berjaya Time Square Hotel Kuala Lumpur in 2015. Pic: La Juiceria

Incidentally, T7 Global Bhd just signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Terengganu state-linked corporation Eastern Pacific Industrial Corp Bhd (EPIC) and CMC Engineering Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned bumiputera company, to form a consortium to undertake the construction of the RM60 billion East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) project's Terengganu parcel in March this year.

While news of ECRL being scrapped had put downward pressure on the company's stock price in recent months, news that the government is considering allowing the project to continue has dramatically shifted the market outlook on the company.

This turnaround did not go unnoticed with several news reports raising questions about the coincidence and timing of the two events.

"Tan Sri, you sure have the magic touch in business," Malaysia Today reported with a snapshot of the Berjaya founder's recent acquisition of T7 Global Bhd shares.

Pic: MTPic: MT

"Has crony capitalism returned?" a tweet posted by Duke of KL over the weekend highlighted the profitable investment move by Vincent Tan.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng was quoted by The Malaysian Insight in a recent interview as stating that the ECRL will have to proceed given the multi-billion ringigit already invested in it.

“In the ECRL, we have already paid RM20 billion. So it doesn’t really make sense to just scrap it because we’ve already paid RM20 billion,” The Malaysian Insight quoted Guan Eng.

“Let us discuss this first. We cannot have these discussions in public. The negotiations have to be done behind closed doors,” Lim added.

- mD