By Yantoultra Ngui
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Malaysian tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary is looking at bringing in an investor into MMC Port Holdings – a deal that could value the country’s biggest port operator at more than 12 billion ringgit ($2.7 billion), two people with knowledge of the matter said.
His conglomerate MMC Corp may sell a stake of up to 30% in MMC Ports, said one of the people, adding that financial investors and companies have approached MMC Corp about their interest in the ports business.
A sale could be a precursor to a potential MMC Ports listing on the Malaysian stock exchange in a few years, said the sources.
Deliberations were ongoing and no decisions have been made, they added, declining to be identified as the discussions were private.
MMC Corp and MMC Ports did not respond to requests seeking comment.
Amid a high inflationary environment, global investor interest in infrastructure assets has grown with sovereign, pension and private equity funds eager for solid long-term returns.
Global container volumes have also soared due to supply chain disruptions and congested ports, spurring deal discussions in the sector.
Port operator PSA International, fully owned by Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings, is evaluating a sale of its multi-billion dollar 20% stake in CK Hutchison Holdings’ ports business, Reuters reported in December.
MMC Ports has seven ports in Malaysia – Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Johor Port, Northport, Penang Port, Tanjung Bruas Port, SPT Services and Andaman Port, according to its website.
All are located along the Straits of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
MMC Corp also owns stakes in Malaysia’s largest independent power producer Malakoff Corp and the country’s only supplier of reticulated natural gas in Peninsular Malaysia, Gas Malaysia.
Syed Mokhtar also owns a majority stake in another Malaysian conglomerate called DRB-Hicom, which in turn has holdings in national postal service firm Pos Malaysia and unlisted car maker Proton Holdings.
($1 = 4.4350 ringgit)
(Reporting by Yantoultra Ngui; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)