Axiata rejects Keppel offer for buying M1

Axiata, a leading telecom operator in Malaysia, is likely to reject an offer from Keppel Corp to increase Keppel’s stake in Singapore-based mobile service provider M1, Reuters reported.
Axiata is the biggest shareholder in M1 with 28.3 percent stake. The offer valued M1 at up to S$1.9 billion or $1.4 billion.

Axiata may join hands with private equity firms and other companies to increase its stake in M1. Axiata said it views the Keppel-led offer of S$2.06 per M1 share as opportunistic and inadequate.

Axiata said in a statement it was evaluating all its options and it suggested that the Keppel-led offer price was not satisfactory.

“The company has been clear in our position that the Offer should reflect the accurate future value of M1 (inclusive of an acceptable control premium), consistent with market standards,” Axiata said.

Axiata said it will consider factors such as M1’s depressed share price for more than a year versus its true value potential, long-term growth potential, and future competitive outlook.

M1, the third largest telecom operator in Singapore, contributed about 10 percent of Axiata’s normalised profit in Q2 FY 2018.

Singapore conglomerate Keppel and Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) are offering to buy the remaining shares they don’t own in M1, in a deal worth up to about S$1.27 billion or $930 million.

Keppel and SPH are offering a 26 percent premium to M1’s last closing share price of S$1.63 on Friday.

The offer comes as M1 shares are down nearly 60 percent from an all-time high of S$3.99 in early 2015. Keppel and SPH together hold a 33.27 percent stake in M1. M1 has struggled to boost revenue and tackle a fall in profit.

M1 is the most vulnerable in a competitive Singapore mobile market, where Australia’s TPG Telecom is set to become the fourth mobile operator. Singapore has a population of nearly 5.6 million has over 8 million mobile subscriptions.

The deal would allow the Keppel-led group to gain majority control of M1 after the mobile operator’s three major shareholders ended a strategic review of their stakes last year.

KCL and SPH said on Thursday they would aim to stem the decline in M1’s shares through a combination of transformational efforts which are expected to take several years.