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Briefs: Keppel counters with ‘final offer’ for SPH; Singapore Malaysia to launch VTL

The Edge Singapore
The Edge Singapore11/11/2021 8:51 PM GMT+08  • 7 min read
Briefs: Keppel counters with ‘final offer’ for SPH; Singapore Malaysia to launch VTL
This week, ERA has also signed an MOU with Endowus to promote financial literacy.
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Quoteworthy: "Today is a defining moment for GE, and we are ready." — General Electric CEO Larry Culp, announcing the break-up of the storied conglomerate into three separate units

Brimming with confidence, Keppel counters with ‘final offer’ for SPH

The tussle for the ownership of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has taken another turn as Keppel Corporation has improved its bid to $2.351 per share, up 12.6% from its original offer of $2.099.

Keppel’s revised offer, which features a higher cash component, was widely expected. It serves to counter a possible all-cash offer of $2.10 from a consortium called Cuscaden Peak, led by hotelier Ong Beng Seng, floated on Oct 29. He is joined by Mapletree and CLA Real Estate — both of which are directly held by Temasek — which, incidentally, is also the largest Keppel shareholder with its 20.4% stake.

The revised offer, which was described by Keppel as “final”, is seen to have a much better chance. A market observer believes that Ong’s proposed bid was a form of “national service”, meant to elicit a better offer from Keppel.

In August, Keppel tabled an offer worth $2.099 with a mix of cash, Keppel REIT units and SPH REIT units to be distributed in specie. Investors had been expecting a more compelling offer, with SPH shares closing at $2.16 on Nov 9, ahead of Keppel’s announcement at 11.56pm that evening. SPH shares resumed trading on Nov 11 and closed 15 cents higher, or 7% up, at $2.31.

Speaking at a briefing on Nov 10, Keppel CEO Loh Chin Hua talked up the offer, which now includes a cash component of 86.8 cents per share, up from 66.8 cents previously. The number of Keppel REIT and SPH REIT units that form the offer remains at 0.596 and 0.782 per SPH share respectively.

“What is very clear is that this is our final offer. So, we believe that this is very compelling. It’s not just about price, it’s also about certainty of deal and how quickly you can get the deal done. We believe we offer the best proposition to SPH shareholders,” says Loh, adding that the deal can be completed and SPH shareholders can receive their payment as early as mid-January.

Loh may be eager for a fast deal, but waiting has so far proven fruitful for SPH and the company may be holding out. According to the SPH-published broadsheet The Straits Times, company CEO Ng Yat Chung said “the door has not closed for SPH to consider a superior offer”. Ng also reportedly thinks Keppel’s final offer is superior to the competing offer from Cuscaden Peak. SPH will call for a scheme meeting by Dec 8.

Prior to Keppel’s revised offer, SPH has reportedly engaged with more than 20 parties to date. It has until Nov 16 to enter into another agreement with any other party, but a competing general offer must be announced by Dec 1.

Should a better offer be announced before Nov 16, SPH can choose to hold the scheme meeting that same day, or adjourn the meeting to a date no later than 21 days after the announcement.

SPH’s revalued net asset value (RNAV) is estimated at around $2.50 per share. But will there be a better offer? The Edge Singapore understands that some other parties have, at various points in time, been keen to throw their hats into the ring, including those from Thailand and China. Analysts from CGS-CIMB seem to think so: “We do not discount the possibility of more competing offers for SPH as the revised offer by Keppel is still at a 10% discount to our equity value per share of $2.60.”

“We are not doing this to fail. We put our best foot forward,” says Keppel’s Loh. “We believe this is a very compelling deal for both SPH and Keppel’s shareholders; it is a win-win.”— Jovi Ho

ERA signs MOU with Endowus to promote financial literacy

Real estate agency ERA Singapore and digital wealth advisor Endowus have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), where both parties will conduct regular financial literacy programmes for ERA’s advisers and their clients, as well as Endowus’s investors.

“This collaboration between ERA and Endowus will allow consumers to diversify their investment portfolios to balance risk and maximise rewards through their own innovative platforms,” the companies said in a joint press release on Nov 12.

In addition, ERA’s advisers and their clients can now enjoy access to Endowus’s platform.

Investors on Endowus can, in turn, access ERA’s RealtyWatch, a consumer-facing “super-app” featuring proprietary proptech tools that were previously designed for real estate advisers’ use only. These include the proprietary iERA Robo Advisor, which automatically generates personalised property investment plans based on users’ existing property portfolios and financial status.

In addition, users will receive daily notifications on neighbourhood property transactions. They can also view estimated valuations of properties, new launch homes and the latest mortgage packages from major banks.

“Both organisations share the same vision in offering unbiased and professional financial advice to users and the community through the use of technology,” says ERA Singapore CEO Marcus Chu. “Together, I believe that our work in our respective industries, and the society at large, will create new opportunities, and together we can build a future that will benefit one and all.”

Real estate investment is a key facet of one’s diversification portfolio,” adds Endowus CEO Gregory Van. “We are very excited about this strategic partnership with a like-minded organisation like ERA to provide access and education to both sets of clients to help them take better ownership of their wealth journey.”

ERA Singapore also signed an MOU with CGS-CIMB Securities last month, similarly focused on financial literacy. ERA and CGS-CIMB will roll out initiatives aimed at helping to guide consumers, especially young adults, on building sustainable and diversified financial portfolios. According to the Oct 13 press release, the two companies will hold webinars and regular educational programmes to help consumers diversify their portfolio with real estate and stocks. — Jovi Ho

Singapore and Malaysia to launch vaccinated travel lane from Nov 29

Singapore and Malaysia will launch a vaccinated travel lane (VTL) between Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport from Nov 29. This would allow fully vaccinated travellers flying between Singapore and Malaysia, and be subjected to Covid-19 tests in lieu of serving quarantine or Stay-Home Notice.

This was announced in a joint press statement by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Nov 8.

“Given the significant progress that both countries have made in vaccinating their respective populations and managing the Covid-19 pandemic, the prime ministers agreed that it is timely to progressively resume cross-border travel between both countries, in a safe manner,” the statement adds. Both sides are also looking forward to restoring travel across the land links between both countries in the near future, noting that there is a “good progress” in ongoing discussions for a similar scheme for land transport between the two countries.

“Singapore and Malaysia enjoy deep, warm and multi-faceted relations. I am very happy that both our countries are finally able to restart cross-border travel through the VTLs. This will help revive our economies, restore our people-to-people ties, and strengthen our bilateral relationship,” says Lee.

Meanwhile, Ismail Sabri says the VTLs are another important milestone in the longstanding Malaysia-Singapore cooperation. “I look forward to effective implementation of this travel scheme, adding to those we already have developed previously to facilitate movements of people and goods between Malaysia and Singapore”, he adds.

Transport Minister S Iswaran says Malaysia will be in Category Two of the Health Ministry’s Covid-19 risk assessment framework for border measures from Nov 12. He adds that before the pandemic, the international air route between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur was the busiest in the world, with about 40 flights daily and an average of 7,000 arrivals per day at the Changi Airport.

For entry into Singapore, travellers from Malaysia will be required to present a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or professionally administered Antigen Rapid Test (ART) result taken 48 hours prior to departure. They will also be subjected to an on-arrival PCR test.

Singapore now has more than a dozen countries under the VTL scheme. As at Nov 7, close to 18,000 travellers have entered Singapore via the VTLs. From Nov 29, up to 6,000 travellers may enter Singapore daily through the various VTLs, up from the 4,000 currently allowed. — Khairani Afifi Noordin

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