A person on a mobile phone walks past a sign for MobileOne in Singapore on December 4, 2002. Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. and MobileOne Ltd., the nation’s two largest cell-phone operators, say it may take more than a year before new high-speed services spur sales. (Photographer: Luis Enrique Ascui/Bloomberg News)

Singapore Mobile Operator Gets Offer Valuing It at $1.4 Billion

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. and Keppel Corp. offered to buy shares they didn’t already own in M1 Ltd. amid intensifying competition that’s seen the mobile-phone company languishing in last place among the city-state’s operators.

The two companies, M1’s second- and third-biggest shareholders, offered S$2.06 for each share, valuing the mobile operator at S$1.9 billion ($1.4 billion), according to a statement Thursday. The cash offer is 26 percent more than M1’s last price on Sept. 21 before the stock was halted from trading.

The purchase would give Keppel and SPH free rein to overhaul a carrier whose stock has plunged 59 percent since a high in March 2015 as it faces increasing threats in Singapore’s congested mobile industry. Despite having a population 0.4 percent the size of China’s, Singapore will soon see the entry of a fourth wireless operator, giving it a larger number of carriers than the world’s biggest mobile-phone market.

Singapore Mobile Operator Gets Offer Valuing It at $1.4 Billion

“We can expect consolidation in the industry as the entry of the fourth telco has really intensified the competition,” said Joel Ng, an analyst at KGI Securities. Taking M1 private would allow the company to be “more nimble and be more aggressive in terms of M&A,” he said.

Australia’s TPG Telecom Ltd. won a bid in December 2016 to become the industry’s fourth network operator. In July last year, Keppel and SPH -- together with M1’s largest shareholder, Malaysia’s Axiata Group Bhd. -- ended a strategic review of their stakes in the operator after potential suitors dropped out.

A spokeswoman for Axiata said the company would comment on the proposed buyout soon.

Keppel, whose businesses include property, infrastructure and oil-rig construction, and SPH are seeking to “arrest the decline in M1 shareholder value through a combination of transformational efforts which are expected to take several years,” they said in the statement.

Dividends from M1 could be affected because of intensifying competition and resource allocation to carry out the reform, they said. The steps include cost cuts and digitization of M1’s operating platform, according to the statement.

Keppel and newspaper publisher SPH said the deal is in line with their long-term strategies, and will allow M1 to cooperate further with other Keppel units, while SPH sees opportunities to use the carrier’s mobile platform to provide digital content.

The offer won’t be made unless certain preconditions -- including clearance from Singapore’s Info-communications Media Development Authority and other regulatory obligations -- are fulfilled by 5 p.m. on March 27, according to the statement.

Separately, Keppel said it would take Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation Ltd. private to streamline the group’s corporate structure and increase flexibility to allocate resources and capital as Keppel Telecommunications is growing its data center and urban logistics businesses.

Keppel, which owns 79.2 percent of Keppel Telecommunications, offered S$1.91 in cash for each share, valuing the company at about S$1.07 billion. The offer is 40 percent higher than the subsidiary’s last price on Sept. 21 before trading on the stock was halted.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.