Keppel, SPH offer to buy remaining stake in M1 for up to $930 million

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Keppel Corp Ltd and Singapore Press Holdings Ltd (SPH) have offered to buy the remaining shares in Singaporean telecom operator M1 Ltd that they do not already own, in a deal worth up to S$1.27 billion ($930 million).

FILE PHOTO: People shop for handsets at an M1 mobile shop in Singapore March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Edgar Su

The companies, through a special purpose vehicle, have offered to pay S$2.06 per M1 share, a premium of 26 percent to the stock’s last closing price, they said in filings to the stock exchange.

Conglomerate Keppel, through its unit Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation Ltd (Keppel T&T), media firm SPH and their related parties have a deemed interest of 33.27 percent in M1, which has a market capitalization of S$1.51 billion.

“With majority control, Keppel Corp and SPH, who are long-term shareholders of M1, would be better able to support M1’s management to implement strategic and operational changes to strengthen its performance and position as a connectivity platform,” Keppel Corp said in a statement.

Mobile telecoms competition is heating up in Singapore, with Australia’s TPG Telecom seeking to launch a new service after winning a license to become the city-state’s fourth telecom operator. M1 is considered to be the most vulnerable to new competition.

Malaysia’s Axiata Group Bhd is the largest shareholder in M1, Singapore’s smallest mobile network operator, with a 28.3 percent stake.

Last year, Axiata, Keppel and SPH considered, and then called off, a strategic review of their M1 shareholding, which sources said was due to a lower-than-expected offer from external parties.

Reuters, citing sources, on Wednesday said Axiata was also open to teaming up with overseas partners to buy out Keppel and SPH’s stakes if a potential offer from Keppel and SPH did not meet its expectations.

Separately, Keppel said it was seeking to privatize Keppel T&T for S$1.91 per share, a 40 percent premium. It already owns a 79.22 stake in Keppel T&T, which provides logistics and data center services.

Trading in shares of Keppel, Keppel T&T, SPH and M1 was halted ahead of the announcements.

DBS Bank is the financial adviser to Keppel, while Credit Suisse (Singapore) is advising SPH.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Sunil Nair