Tussle over UDA’s plans for Pudu Jail

(The Malaysian Insider) – The Urban Development Authority efforts to trim its debts and raise money for its affirmative action programmes is being hampered by politics with the Finance Ministry stalling on the UDA Holdings board’s recommendation of a China-based company to redevelop the Pudu Jail land.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the government is facing pressure and lobbying from politically-connected local companies who are keen on taking part in the deal.

UDA Holdings has recommended China-based Everbright International Construction Ltd as its partner for the redevelopment of the 8-hectare Pudu Jail site.

Sources say that the shortlisting process has been completed and Everbright’s bid is in excess of RM2 billion, three times the value of the land.

“This is 30 per cent higher than the next best bid,” a source told The Malaysian Insider.

The Edge reported yesterday that the finance ministry is due to decide from a shortlist of five companies in yet another defining moment for the agency that was formed after race riots in 1969 to ensure Malays have a bigger stake in the urban economy.

But the highly-placed source said that UDA’s board has alreadyselected the best bid and are waiting for the go-ahead from the finance ministry.

“There is no more shortlist. The finance ministry is trying to delay in hopes that the Chinese firm will pull out because it’s not worth the hassle. But they are having trouble finding a good reason to reject the bid as the board has decided on the best offer,” the source said.

The Najib administration last week rejected UDA’s sale of 3.56 acres of prime land in downtown Kuala Lumpur to 54 per cent Bumiputera-owned Nadayu Properties Bhd, formerly known as Mutiara Goodyear Development Bhd, for not having sufficient Bumiputera holding.

The decision over the Pudu Jail site will be yet another test of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s commitment to economic liberalisation.

UDA had come under fire recently from Malay hardliners in Umno, Perkasa and Utusan Malaysia for allegedly abandoning the Bumiputera agenda by not appointing Bumiputera joint-venture turnkey investors for the proposed Bukit Bintang City Centre (BBCC) on the Pudu Jail site located on prime land in the heart of the capital’s Golden Triangle.