Malaysian tycoon Ananda offers US$4.6b to buy out telco

  • Business
  • Thursday, 03 May 2007

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian billionaire Ananda Krishnan has offered about 16 billion ringgit (US$4.6 billion; euro3.3 billion) to buy out Maxis, the country's No. 1 mobile phone company that he controls, bankers said Thursday. 

Krishnan, Malaysia's second-richest man, owns 47.05 percent of Maxis Communications Bhd., and his associates own about 13 percent for a controlling stake of 60 percent. 

Now he wants to buy the remaining 40 percent shares held by the public, offering 15.60 ringgit (US$4.50; euro3.3) a share, said deal adviser CIMB Investment Bank, in what would be Malaysia's largest corporate deal so far this year. 

The offer was made by Binariang GSM Sdn. Bhd, which was especially set up by Maxis' parent company, Usaha Tegas Sdn. Bhd., which is wholly owned by Krishnan, for the takeover. 

CIMB said Binariang aims to raise funds for the deal from the debt market and other avenues. 

The offer values Maxis shares at a 20 percent premium, a price that has not been reached since Maxis was listed in 2002. 

It puts the total worth of the country's seventh largest publicly listed company at 39.5 billion ringgit (US$11.3 billion; euro8.2 billion), compared to its market capitalization of 32.9 billion ringgit (US$9.5 billion; euro6.9 billion). 

Trading of Maxis shares was suspended Monday at 13 ringgit (US$3.70; euro2.7). 

Analysts and fund managers said the move may be a prelude to a regional expansion drive by Maxis, the country's biggest mobile phone operator with 8.1 million subscribers. 

With Malaysia's mobile phone market largely saturated and growing slowly, some analysts believe Maxis plans to push further into large markets such as India and Indonesia.  

It owns 74 percent of India's Aircel Ltd. and 95 percent of loss-making PT Natrindo Telepon Seluler in Indonesia, both unlisted companies. 

Krishnan, 68, a self-made billionaire of Sri Lankan origin, also controls satellite operator MEASAT Global, pay-TV operator Astro All Asia Networks PLC and power producer and numbers-betting operator Tanjong PLC. 

Krishnan's personal wealth is estimated at about US$6 billion (euro4.6 billion), making him Malaysia's second-richest man after Robert Kuok, who owns palm oil plantations and property and has interests in a host of other industries. 

Binariang chairman Raja Arshad Raja Uda said Maxis would reinvest its earnings and accelerate capital spending after the takeover. 

"The privatization will eliminate the impact of earnings volatility on public shareholders and provide Binariang with the opportunity to consolidate the company,'' he told reporters. 

For more than 30 years, the media-shy Krishnan has been one of Southeast Asia's most savvy entrepreneurs, weaving a network of business and government contacts throughout Asia and into the U.S. and Europe. 

In addition to his media and telecommunications operations, he has interests in oil trading, gas fields and property, as well as investments in an assortment of other private companies. 

One of his early and rare public splashes came in 1985, when he teamed up with Irish musician Bob Geldof to organize the Live Aid benefit concerts in London and Philadelphia for famine-strapped Ethiopia. - AP

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