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MyRepublic said to seek financial backing for M1 deal

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MyRepublic Ltd, the Singapore internet provider backed by billionaire Xavier Niel, is seeking a private-equity partner as it bids for local wireless carrier M1 Ltd, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

[SINGAPORE] MyRepublic Ltd, the Singapore internet provider backed by billionaire Xavier Niel, is seeking a private-equity partner as it bids for local wireless carrier M1 Ltd, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

MyRepublic, which last year unsuccessfully bid for Singapore's fourth mobile operator license, has been approaching buyout firms about helping finance its planned offer for M1, the people said, asking not to be identified because the process is private. M1 shares have risen 14 per cent this year, giving the company a market value of about S$2.1 billion.

Warburg Pincus had earlier expressed interest in M1, though the private equity firm is no longer pursuing a deal, the people said. Shanxi Meijin Energy Co and China Broadband Capital also submitted first-round offers for Singapore's third-largest carrier, people with knowledge of the matter said last month.

There's no certainty the deliberations will result in a transaction, and M1's major shareholders may decide not to sell their stakes if the offers aren't satisfactory, according to the people.

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MyRepublic, led by former StarHub Ltd. executive Malcolm Rodrigues, sought last year to become Singapore's fourth wireless carrier with a pledge to offer unlimited data plans. At the time, it had hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc and DBS Group Holdings Ltd to help raise S$250 million for its bid. TPG Telecom Ltd eventually won the spectrum auction in December with a S$105 million offer, entering a market that has one of the world's deepest penetration rates.

M1's largest owners Axiata Group Bhd, Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation Ltd and Singapore Press Holdings Ltd said in March they appointed Morgan Stanley for a strategic review of their stakes in the company. The three companies together own more than 60 per cent of M1, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.  "As M1 is a publicly listed company, MyRepublic is unable to provide a comment at this point," a spokesman for MyRepublic said by email. A representative for Warburg Pincus declined to comment, while a representative for Axiata declined to comment beyond earlier exchange filings. A spokesman for Keppel T&T said he couldn't immediately comment, and representatives for M1 and Singapore Press didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

MyRepublic, which was started in 2011, provides internet services to more than 50,000 homes and businesses in Singapore, according to its website.

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