KKR, Samling said shortlisted in United Engineers bidding

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - KKR & Co. and Malaysian conglomerate Samling Group are among suitors shortlisted in the bidding for United Engineers, the century-old Singapore property group, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Perennial Real Estate Holdings, Ascendas-Singbridge and an investment vehicle of Malaysian tycoon Lee Ming Tee were also invited to start due diligence, according to the people. Final bids for United Engineers, which has a market value of S$1.9 billion, are expected to be submitted around the end of March, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. 

United Engineers jumped as much as 4.6 per cent in Singapore trading Friday, hitting the highest level in two years before the company requested a trading halt. Its biggest investors, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. and its insurance unit Great Eastern Holdings, said in a Singapore exchange filing after the market close Friday they have received non-binding expressions of interest in their United Engineers stakes and are evaluating the proposals.

The shareholders said last month they hired Credit Suisse Group AG to advise on a strategic review of the holdings. A buyer of United Engineers would gain a property portfolio that includes Singapore shopping centers like Rochester Mall and mixed-used developments such as UE BizHub City, as well as condominiums, hotels and serviced apartments.

"Portfolios like UE's have strong supportive fundamentals," Priyaranjan Kumar, regional executive director of capital markets at Cushman & Wakefield in Singapore, said by e-mail Friday. "The wall of money continues to climb and the search for yields is unabated."  Mandatory Offer OCBC, Great Eastern and the bank's founding Lee family own more than 30 per cent of United Engineers, people with knowledge of the matter said in September. Buying their shareholdings would trigger a mandatory takeover offer for the company under Singapore rules.

There's no certainty any transaction will result, OCBC and Great Eastern said in the filing. United Engineers requested in a Friday exchange filing after the market close that its trading halt be lifted.

Spokesmen for KKR and Perennial declined to comment, while calls to Samling's office in Kuala Lumpur weren't immediately answered. Ascendas-Singbridge declined to comment in an e-mailed statement. A representative for Mulpha International, the Kuala Lumpur-listed property firm backed by Lee Ming Tee's family, said she couldn't immediately comment.

Ascendas-Singbridge, controlled by Singapore state investment company Temasek Holdings, is an urban planner that develops large-scale townships, business parks and industrial properties. The company has projects in 29 cities across 10 countries, according to its website.

Samling Group's businesses include forest resource management, property development and car dealerships. Perennial, a Singapore-based developer and landlord, owns stakes in projects include the Capitol Singapore retail and residential complex, as well as AXA Tower in the city-state's central business district.