UEL shares rise as 5 bidders shortlisted for takeover

Surge in share price prompts query from SGX about unusual price movements

Shares of property group United Engineers (UEL) jumped eight cents, or 2.83 per cent, to $2.91 yesterday after news broke that five different suitors had entered the final round of bidding to take up a controlling stake in the firm.

Private equity firm KKR & Co, Malaysian conglomerate Samling Group, Perennial Real Estate Holdings, Singapore government- owned development group Ascendas-Singbridge, as well as an investment vehicle of Malaysian tycoon Lee Ming Tee, have been shortlisted to make final bids for UEL, Bloomberg reported early yesterday, citing sources.

UEL shares jumped as high as 4.6 per cent to $2.96 when the news broke, prompting a query from the Singapore Exchange about unusual price movements.

OCBC Bank and its Great Eastern Holdings insurance arm, together with the bank's founding Lee family, are said to hold a combined 30 per cent stake in UEL, which has a market cap of $1.9 billion. Under Singapore rules, the buyer of their stake would have to make a mandatory takeover offer for the rest of UEL.

In a joint statement yesterday evening, OCBC Bank and Great Eastern confirmed that they had received non-binding expressions of interests over their combined stakes in UEL and WBL Corp, which UEL acquired in 2013.


The mixed-use project UE BizHub City, formerly known as UE Square, is one of the buildings that UEL has developed. UEL is one of Singapore's oldest companies, with interests in property, engineering and distribution, technology and manufacturing. ST FILE PHOTO

"OCBC Bank and Great Eastern are evaluating these expressions of interests, and there is no certainty that any transaction will materialise or that any agreement will be entered into," they said.

Final bids for UEL are expected to be submitted around the end of March, said the Bloomberg report. UEL declined comment.

Last month, OCBC and Great Eastern said they had hired Credit Suisse to help review options for their UEL stakes. Up to 10 parties were reported to have indicated interest.

UNDER EVALUATION

OCBC Bank and Great Eastern are evaluating these expressions of interests, and there is no certainty that any transaction will materialise or that any agreement will be entered into.

OCBC BANK AND GREAT EASTERN, confirming in a joint statement that they had received non-binding expressions of interests over their combined stakes in UEL and WBL Corp, which UEL acquired in 2013.

UEL is one of Singapore's oldest companies, with interests in property, engineering and distribution, technology and manufacturing. In recent years, it has been selling non-core businesses and assets.

Buildings that UEL has developed include its flagship mixed-use project UE BizHub City (formerly known as UE Square), and orchardgateway, the mall and hotel complex. It also owns Rochester Mall and UE Square Shopping Mall, as well as a stake in Seletar Mall.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2017, with the headline 'UEL shares rise as 5 bidders shortlisted for takeover'. Print Edition | Subscribe