Temasek 'exploring options' for Keppel, Sembcorp

Temasek Holdings is the largest shareholder in Keppel Corp and Sembcorp Industries, with a 21 per cent stake in Keppel and a 49.5 per cent holding in Sembcorp, data compiled by Bloomberg shows.
Temasek Holdings is the largest shareholder in Keppel Corp and Sembcorp Industries, with a 21 per cent stake in Keppel and a 49.5 per cent holding in Sembcorp, data compiled by Bloomberg shows.ST FILE PHOTO:

It is said to be looking at ways to preserve value of its investments amid a downturn in oil rig sector

Temasek Holdings is discussing options for portfolio companies Keppel Corp and Sembcorp Industries, ranging from divesting their non- core assets to selling shares, as the two Singapore rig builders grapple with the oil price slump, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Temasek is weighing the possibility of Keppel selling its 19.1 per cent stake in wireless operator M1 and paring its 44.6 per cent interest in office landlord Keppel Reit, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private.

Keppel's holdings in the two companies are worth a combined $1.6 billion at current market prices, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 

M1 shares jumped as much as 5.3 per cent on the news, rising to as high as $2.37 in trading yesterday. The counter eventually closed 4 per cent higher at $2.33.

Temasek executives also discussed the possibility of Keppel and Sembcorp Industries selling stock through rights offerings, the people said. 

The options, presented on Monday during a regular Temasek meeting to review its portfolio companies, focused on how Temasek can preserve the value of its investments amid a downturn in the oil-rig sector and will be shared with the two companies' boards, the sources said.

The options, presented on Monday at a regular Temasek meeting to review its portfolio companies, focused on how Temasek can preserve the value of its investments amid a downturn in the oil rig sector, and will be shared with the two companies' boards, the people said.

Orders at Keppel and Sembcorp Marine, the world's No. 1 and No. 2 maker of oil rigs, fell last year to their weakest level in six years as falling crude prices crimped demand for drilling equipment.

The two companies also face cancellation risks from a major client in Brazil, which is embroiled in a corruption probe and has not been able to pay the two Singapore companies since November 2014.

Any action would need to be decided and approved by the companies' boards, said the people.

Temasek is the largest shareholder in the two conglomerates, with a 21 per cent stake in Keppel and a 49.5 per cent holding in Sembcorp Industries, data compiled by Bloomberg shows.

The Temasek team told executives at the state investment firms that the outlook for the rig building industry is likely to remain weak for the next three years, and that Temasek may be called on to support any moves taken by Keppel or Sembcorp Industries, the people said. 

Brent crude, the benchmark for most of the world's oil, has fallen 39 per cent in the past year, and last week it hit its lowest level since 2003.

Temasek declined to comment, while representatives for Keppel and Keppel Reit did not comment.

After markets closed yesterday, M1 said it was not aware of any reason for the sharp rise in its share price save for the Bloomberg report, in response to a Singapore Exchange query.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Temasek 'exploring options' for Keppel, Sembcorp'. Print Edition | Subscribe