M1, StarHub Plunge as Singapore Takes Bids to Add Carrier

Updated on
  • Wireless operators drop on concern competition to hurt profit
  • Regulator seeking more competition to push down phone bills

M1 Ltd. plunged by most in almost eight years, leading declines among Singapore’s phone operators, as the government received bids from three companies seeking to become city-state’s fourth mobile carrier.

M1 slumped as much as 6.8 percent, the most since 2008 on an intraday basis, before sliding 5.6 percent to S$2.51 as of 12:36 p.m. in Singapore. The company is especially vulnerable to a new player because its revenue base is narrower than those of bigger rivals Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. and StarHub Ltd., according to OCBC Securities. Singtel dropped 2.5 percent, while StarHub declined 4.1 percent.

Companies that submitted bids for the mobile license were MyRepublic, a local Internet service provider backed by French billionaire Xavier Niel and Indonesia’s Sinar Mas Group, as well as a unit of Australia’s TPG Telecom Ltd., according to the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore. AirYotta Pte, a newly formed wireless company led by Chief Executive Officer Michael DeNoma, former head of consumer banking at Standard Chartered Plc, also submitted a bid.

“With three companies showing interest, we believe the probability of having a new mobile entrant is very high,” Varun Ahuja, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG, wrote in a note to clients Friday. “We expect industry service revenue to decline and see downside risk to consensus estimates.”

The regulator has said it wants to introduce competition in Singapore to bring down phone bills, improve services and help Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong step closer to turning Singapore into a “Smart Nation.” That may come at the expense of existing carriers including Singtel, which has said there’s no need to bring in a new player in the face of what’s already a saturated market.

IDA is expected to award the winning bidder by mid-October. The mobile license for the new player starts in April 2017. The winner will be given 18 months to complete its network.

A previous version of this story was changed to correct the spelling of Varun Ahuja.