M1, StarHub Fall to 2012 Low as Singapore Raises Competition

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  • Margins, dividends may be reduced, Maybank Kim Eng Says
  • Share declines follow government plan to auction frequencies

M1 Ltd. and StarHub Ltd. shares fell to their lowest closing levels in more than three years after a plan by the Singapore regulator to increase competition in the phone industry this year.

M1, Singapore’s smallest mobile carrier, fell 4.2 percent to S$2.50, its lowest closing price since July 2012. StarHub dropped 2 percent to S$3.41, its weakest close since June 2012. Singapore Telecommunications Ltd., Southeast Asia’s biggest phone company, lost 0.9 percent to S$3.50.

The nation’s Infocomm Development Authority said Tuesday it will proceed with plans to auction radio frequencies for use by a fourth carrier this year. Increased competition would crimp the companies’ profit margins and force them to cut dividends, said Gregory Yap, an analyst at Maybank Kim Eng Holdings Ltd. in Singapore.

“The incumbents seem too comfortable with the industry setup,” Yap said by phone. “They’re not challenging the status quo. They’re innovating but probably not at the pace that IDA wants.”

The regulator has been seeking industry feedback since April 2014 to find a solution to growing mobile data traffic in the island nation, and proposed in July last year to release more spectrum for mobile broadband services.