04 Mar

M1 to be delisted

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s smallest telco, M1, will be delisted from the Singapore Exchange (SGX) after March 18.  This was after local conglomerate Keppel Corporation and media company Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), through a joint company, bought out Malaysian telecommunications company Axiata Group’s 28.7 per cent stake in M1, giving them majority control.

TODAY looks back at the history of Singapore’s second telco, and the twists and turns that led to its upcoming delisting.

1997 — M1 launches operations in Singapore. Made up of Keppel, SPH, Cable & Wireless and Hong Kong Telecom, the company secures 10 per cent of the market share, or 35,000 subscribers, within its first month.

2000 — Singapore’s third telco, Starhub, enters the telecom market.

2001 — M1 introduces Singapore’s first international roaming pre-paid card.

2002 — M1 becomes a public listed company in December. By then, it had amassed one-third of the market share, which amounted to about one million subscribers, and was valued at between S$1.2 billion and S$1.5 billion, making it the biggest share offering since 1999.  It opened its initial public offering at S$1.25.

2005 — Axiata pays S$260.8 million for a 12.1 per cent stake in M1.

2014 — M1 launches Singapore’s first nationwide 4G network.

2015 — M1 shares hit a high of S$3.99 in March. It also posted a 6.6 per cent rise in its net profit in the first quarter for that year, buoyed by a surge in handset sales.

2016 — The mobile scene in Singapore starts to crowd, with virtual telco Circles.Life launching in May and Australian telco, TPG Telecom, winning the bid to become the fourth telco in Singapore.

That September, Axiata expresses interest in raising its stake in M1 to expand its presence in the region. In an interview with Bloomberg, the chief executive officer of Axiata Jamaludin Ibrahim said: “Strategically, it will be good for us to increase the stake. If the price is right, we will seriously consider it.”

An increased stake in M1 would have allowed Axiata to deepen its foothold in South and South-east Asia. The company owns telco operators in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Cambodia.

2017 — With M1’s shares almost halving in value since 2015 as a result of increased competition in the market, Reuters reports in April that M1’s shareholders — SPH, Keppel and Axiata — have approached China Mobile to sell their majority stake in the company.

There were also media reports that Chinese companies Shanxi Meijin Energy and China Broadband Capital were preparing to make separate bids for M1. However, none of the deals materialised.

June 2018 — Local internet service provider MyRepublic enters the telecom space as a virtual telco. Check out MyRepublic mobile plans here!

2018 — By September, M1’s share price has dropped by almost 60 per cent since its high in 2015 and in October it reports a 5.5 per cent drop in net profit for the third quarter from the same period a year before.

Analysts point to an increasingly competitive market in Singapore and a saturated market as reasons for M1’s poor business performance.

In September, Keppel and SPH offer to buy shares that they did not already own in M1, saying in a statement that the move was to “arrest the decline in M1 shareholder value through a combination of transformational efforts which are expected to take several years”.

Valuing M1 at S$1.9 billion, SPH and Keppel say that the deal would allow M1 to cooperate further with other Keppel units and allow SPH to provide digital content through M1’s mobile platform.

Dec 2018 — Keppel and SPH announce their “firm intention” to make a voluntary general offer of S$2.06 per share of M1 shares that they do not own.  The cash offer is 26 per cent more than M1’s last price on Sept 21 before the stock was halted from trading.

Jan 2019 — Keppel and SPH launch a voluntary general offer and say that they will not increase the price of the bid “under any circumstances whatsoever”.

Feb 15, 2019 — After Axiata’s acceptance of the offer, Keppel’s chief executive Loh Chin Hua says in a press release that obtaining majority control is the “first step” to enhancing M1’s competitiveness in the telecommunications landscape.

“We are very pleased that we will, together with SPH, be in a position to steer M1 during this critical period in its journey. The increasingly challenging and competitive market conditions in the Singapore telecommunications sector requires M1 to take bold steps to transform.”

Feb 27, 2019 — Keppel and SPH gain 90.15 per cent, or 835.1 million, of M1’s shares.

To be listed on the stock exchange, the total number of shares in a company that is issued to the public must be at least 10 per cent.  With M1 no longer meeting this requirement, it will be delisted from the SGX.

Article first sighted on Today.