SINGAPORE — Singapore Press Holdings Ltd and Keppel Corp offered to buy shares they did not 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, according to a statement Thursday (Sept 27). The cash offer is 26 per cent 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 per cent since a high in March 2015 as it faces increasing threats in Singapore’s congested mobile industry. Despite having a population 0.4 per cent 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.
“We can expect consolidation in the industry as the entry of the fourth telco has really intensified the competition,” said Mr 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.