Utico will walk unless Hyflux inks deal by Aug 16

So far, only Hyflux's unsecured working group of financial creditors has not agreed with the commercial terms of the restructuring.
So far, only Hyflux's unsecured working group of financial creditors has not agreed with the commercial terms of the restructuring.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Its CEO notes that it can give troubled firm's 'crown jewel' TuasOne the funds it needs

Hyflux has been given an ultimatum from the Middle Eastern utility firm that has lodged a rescue bid - sign by Aug 16 or the deal is off.

Utico chief executive officer Richard Menezes said yesterday: "We are a millimetre away from signing, it's up to them... The value of Hyflux is falling."

He noted that the TuasOne waste-to-energy plant is Hyflux's "crown jewel" but it will begin commercial operations only next year and needs funds next month, which Utico has agreed to provide.

Mr Menezes added: "We met NEA (National Environment Agency) and they said they will support it as long as there is funding for next month... They are running out of money at the project level."

The CEO was speaking to reporters yesterday at the end of a Singapore High Court session, where Hyflux appealed for more time to compile a rescue.

The troubled water treatment firm had hoped to get its debt moratorium extended until the end of November, but Justice Aedit Abdullah gave it only two more months. Hyflux can seek a further extension on Sept 30.

Justice Aedit said he wants to see Hyflux file an application to convene creditor scheme meetings by next month before allowing the case to drag on: "If it doesn't work out in the next few months (with either Utico or other potential investors), I think I'll pull the plug."

Unlike the failed Salim-Medco rescue deal, where Hyflux first signed a definitive agreement and then negotiated the finer details before hitting a wall, the approach it has taken with Utico is different.

Various stakeholders are engaging directly with Utico, said WongPartnership lawyer Manoj Sandrasegara, who represents Hyflux.

"While the definitive agreement is being negotiated, the allocation is being negotiated simultaneously as well, in terms of what goes to creditors and what goes to capital needs," he said.

"We are optimistic that when the definitive agreement is signed, we can move forward quicker because by that time, the allocations should have been agreed."

Utico has agreed to take an 88 per cent stake in Hyflux through a $300 million equity injection and a $100 million shareholder loan.

So far, only Hyflux's unsecured working group of financial creditors has not agreed with the commercial terms of the restructuring, though other lenders, like DBS Bank, are supportive.

The working group said it has not received any proof of funds from Utico.

Mr Menezes, however, said proof has been provided, although he has not gone into details.

Utico previously said that its cash injection into Hyflux will be funded by a mixture of debt and equity.

While Utico is planning an initial public offering in two years, it will not depend on its proceeds to fund the rescue, Mr Menezes said, adding: "This deal is funded."

On Thursday night, Mr Menezes met a "reflective sample" of around 60 of Hyflux's retail perpetual and preference shareholders, through the assistance of the Securities Investors Association (Singapore), or Sias, according to Mr Sandrasegara.

Mr Menezes said he was "well received" at the three-hour meeting, and that Sias will share more on the options Utico has put forth soon.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2019, with the headline 'Utico will walk unless Hyflux inks deal by Aug 16'. Print Edition | Subscribe