By Denise A. Valdez
METRO PACIFIC Tollways Corp. (MPTC) remains on the lookout for opportunities to expand its presence in the Southeast Asian countries where it currently has tollroad investments, as the company continues its plans to create a pan-ASEAN tollway network.
MPTC President Rodrigo E. Franco told reporters last week that the company’s subsidiaries and affiliates in Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand are looking at several projects that it may invest in.
MPTC parent Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) currently has a 44.9% stake in Vietnam’s CII Bridges and Roads, and a 29.45% stake in Thailand’s Don Muang Tollway Public Co. Ltd. (DMT). Its unit in Indonesia, PT Metro Pacific Tollways Indonesia (PT MPTI), also has a 77.94% stake in Indonesia’s PT Nusantara.
For Vietnam, Mr. Franco said MPTC is looking at the government’s plan to bid out a “North-South Expressway” that will link the north and south of the country through two highways with a combined total length of 3,262 kilometers.
“Vietnam, there are several opportunities. But our affiliate there is already undertaking several projects,” he said, referring to CII Bridges and Roads.
“What they’re trying to build in Vietnam is really a North-South highway. In fact, there is a plan… to bid out some projects comprising the North-South highway… What they would do is (parcel it out) and get some private sector developers to bid on those projects,” he added.
“There are still pockets of opportunities, especially (since) all our focus has always been in the south… And in the south, there’s lots of opportunities there, because it’s a growth area. So we continue to explore those opportunities.”
For Indonesia, Mr. Franco said PT MPTI is looking at some opportunities for an unsolicited proposal that it may submit to the government.
“In Indonesia, what we are seeing is there are several projects that are either in the pipeline or concessions awarded in the past but have not been constructed. So those are opportunities. Apart from that, they also have, like us, this unsolicited proposal scheme that allows developers to think of projects that they can develop… Our subsidiary there is looking at several,” he said.
Mr. Franco noted no proposal has been submitted yet, but he believes Indonesia is never lacking in opportunities because it has “some catching up that needs to be done in terms of road infrastructure.”
In Thailand, Mr. Franco said DMT is a “solid contributor” of revenues to MPTC as the toll road industry has been relatively maturing.
“Relatively mature na ang toll road, at least what we’ve invested. It goes to the airport kasi, so the traffic growth is… siguro sa mga low single-digit ang traffic growth nyan. But that’s because medyo walang expansion, walang extension,” he said, referring to the Don Muang tollway.
“So as I said, relatively mature. But it’s good. It’s earning very well. We get comfort with that,” he added.
But next month, DMT Executive Vice-President for Business and Finance Sakda Panwai told reporters Friday the company will be participating in a government bidding for two toll road projects.
“We purchased two bidding documents. One is Motorway M6. The other one is Motorway M81,” he said during a media briefing in Bangkok.
Motorway M6 or the Bang Pa-in — Nakhon Ratchasima Intercity Motorway Project is a 196-kilometer toll road connecting Thailand and Laos, while Motorway M81 or Bang Yai — Kanchanaburi is a 96-kilometer highway connecting Nonthaburi to Kanchanaburi.
DMT Vice-President for Project Management Jakkrit Tongnaka said the company is preparing for the submission of operations and maintenance (O&M) bids on June 27, with the results expected by September.
“These are the two projects we are preparing for… MPIC has all the information before we make the bidding. And we need to have the approval of the board members; MPIC is one of the members. They have the right to make decisions,” he said.
Asked about the planned bidding, Mr. Franco said in a mobile message: “The company has been looking at the new PPP (public-private partnership) opportunities for some time. But the launch of the projects has been postponed several times.”
Mr. Panwai noted the traffic for the toll road business in Thailand is growing 3% to 5% annually, with an average daily revenue of 8.88 million baht in 2018.
MPIC is one of three key Philippine units of First Pacific, the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT, Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.