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BTS: Will SingTel Ring Time dotCom Again?
By Eddie Toh

16/2/2001 9:29 pm Fri

Source: The Business Times, Singapore

15th February 2001

Will SingTel ring Time dotCom again?

Poor IPO showing sparks talk SingTel may eye stake again

By Eddie Toh in Kuala Lumpur

THE dismal response to Time dotCom's public share sale on Tuesday has sparked strong rumours that Singapore Telecommunications may once again be eyeing a stake in the owner of the prized fibre-optics network in Malaysia.

A source said the 10 underwriters may place out the excess Time dotCom shares to an unnamed foreign strategic partner and other government institutions.

Some of the underwriters, when contacted, declined to comment on the rumours that SingTel could re-emerge as a contender for a slice of Time dotCom.

A SingTel spokesman said: "SingTel is interested in investment opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region."

The closely watched Time dotCom exercise -- the largest Malaysian IPO since 1995 -- was undersubscribed by 75 per cent in one of the worst-ever performances by an IPO in Malaysia.

It received applications for 142.9 million shares worth RM471.4 million (S$216.3 million). It had offered 572 million shares to raise RM1.89 billion from the public, employees, creditors and unidentified investors.

SingTel could end up with almost 17 per cent of Time dotCom if it mopped up all the unwanted shares. At RM3.30 apiece, the stake would be worth more than RM1.4 billion.

However, it's unclear whether the Malaysian government would give its blessing to SingTel after having scuttled its proposed union with Time dotCom.

Last May, SingTel had agreed to pump in an estimated RM2.4 billion for minority stakes in the group -- 14.48 per cent in Time Engineering and 20 per cent each in Time dotCom and Time Online.

However, the deal was called off when Halim Saad of Renong Bhd -- the parent of Time Engineering -- failed to secure the green light from Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Businessmen said Mr Halim had not obtained the blessing from the prime minister in the first place to embark on the crucial cross-border deal.

Khazanah Nasional -- the investment arm of the Malaysian government -- has since stepped in to replace SingTel.

The renewed rumour of SingTel's interest in Time dotCom also came in the wake of warmer bilateral ties between the two countries.

Last week, the two governments broke their impasse when Singapore tentatively agreed to Malaysia's request to shift the Keretapi Tanah Malayu station in Tanjung Pagar to Kranji instead of Woodlands or Bukit Timah as stipulated in the Points of Agreement.

A resolution of the KTM issue could help pave the way for solving the other outstanding bilateral issues like the long-term supply of water to Singapore.