Singapore's MyRepublic Seeking Private-Equity Backing for M1 Bid, Sources Say

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  • Company competing with China Broadband Capital, Shanxi Meijin
  • MyRepublic lost bid last year to become fourth operator

MyRepublic Ltd., the Singapore internet provider backed by billionaire Xavier Niel, is seeking a private-equity partner as it bids for local wireless carrier M1 Ltd., according to people with knowledge of the matter.

MyRepublic, which last year unsuccessfully bid for Singapore’s fourth mobile operator license, has been approaching buyout firms about helping finance its planned offer for M1, the people said, asking not to be identified because the process is private. M1 shares have risen 15 percent this year, giving the company a market value of about S$2.1 billion ($1.5 billion).

Warburg Pincus had earlier expressed interest in M1, though the private equity firm is no longer pursuing a deal, the people said. Chinese coal miner Shanxi Meijin Energy Co. and China Broadband Capital also submitted first-round offers for Singapore’s third-largest carrier, people with knowledge of the matter said last month.

“I do think that MyRepublic has some advantages because this is an operator who has a fixed broadband business running in Singapore,” Sachin Mittal, a Singapore-based analyst at DBS Group Holdings Ltd., said by phone Wednesday. “They know the fixed broadband and the mobile landscape probably better than anyone else.”

There’s no certainty the deliberations will result in a transaction, and M1’s major shareholders may decide not to sell their stakes if the offers aren’t satisfactory, according to the people.

MyRepublic, led by former StarHub Ltd. executive Malcolm Rodrigues, sought last year to become Singapore’s fourth wireless carrier with a pledge to offer unlimited data plans. It had hired banks at the time to help raise S$250 million for its bid. TPG Telecom Ltd. won the spectrum auction in December with a S$105 million offer, entering a market that has one of the world’s deepest penetration rates.

“Part of the driver for them to do this is that they didn’t manage to get the fourth telco license,” said Clement Teo, a Singapore-based analyst at research firm Ovum Plc. “This is another way for them to get back into the game without waiting for the Singapore government to release another license.”

M1’s largest owners Axiata Group Bhd., Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation Ltd. and Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. said in March they appointed Morgan Stanley for a strategic review of their stakes in the company. The three companies together own more than 60 percent of M1, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 

“As M1 is a publicly listed company, MyRepublic is unable to provide a comment at this point,” a spokesman for MyRepublic said by email. Representatives for Singapore Press and Warburg Pincus declined to comment, while representatives for Axiata, Keppel T&T and M1 declined to comment beyond earlier exchange filings.

MyRepublic, which was started in 2011, provides internet services to more than 50,000 homes and businesses in Singapore, according to its website.

— With assistance by Sterling Wong

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