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Hyflux suitor Utico reaffirms offer, suggests PnP town hall next week

UTICO'S proposed rescue deal for Hyflux remains on the table, and the Emirati firm is suggesting a virtual town hall be held between next Wednesday and Saturday for investors of the water treatment firm's perpetual securities and preference shares (PnP).

This also comes after the unsecured working group of bank lenders had informed Utico on Sept 17 that they do not accept the terms of its revised offer and would not consider any non-cash offer, the Singapore firm said on Thursday. Accordingly, Utico was invited to provide details of a further revised proposed cash offer for the consideration of Hyflux's senior unsecured creditors.

However, Utico has yet to respond to the invitation, noted Hyflux as it urged the potential white knight to do so.

In a press statement on Thursday, Utico said it would "once again like to reaffirm" its offer for Hyflux, as the beleaguered Singapore company and the Securities Investors Association (Singapore) or Sias were still "non-committal".

"We remain available for engagement with PnP holders for a virtual town hall between Oct 7 and Oct 10 to ensure they are convinced and approve of our offer," the Middle Eastern utility added.

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Last month, Utico again extended the deadline for Hyflux to accept the rescue package, this time to Oct 15, from Aug 30 previously.

On Sept 30, Utico managing director Richard Menezes also sent a letter to Hyflux, asking the water treatment company to confirm whether the offers from other potential Hyflux investors - Aqua Munda and Pison Investments - had expired and were not renewed.

The deadline for senior unsecured creditors to offer their debts to Pison was Aug 17, and Pison then had until Sept 25 to accept these offers, The Business Times reported in July. The long-stop date on the deal is Dec 31. Last month, Pison said it had received 158 tender application forms from noteholders and other eligible creditors, but that its efforts to engage with the unsecured working group of seven banks had failed.

Meanwhile, Aqua Munda came into the picture with its debt offer last December, and this February it extended the long-stop date to July 17. It then said in June that it was prepared to make an offer to the PnP holders.

In response to Utico, Hyflux on Thursday reiterated that it is open to working with and will consider any genuine interest from potential suitors which are in the best interests of all its creditors.

"To the extent that Utico is asking Hyflux to clarify the intentions or the status of the offers made by other potential suitors... these are matters for the relevant potential suitor to clarify," it added in a letter to the Middle Eastern firm on Thursday.

In his Sept 30 letter, Mr Menezes also said Utico's earlier request for Hyflux to solicit a response from the PnP holders, "to understand their amenability for a cash offer (albeit at a reduced level)", had been based on public announcements to other potential white knights.

Hyflux on Thursday replied that it had already reached out to the PnP holders through Sias to obtain their responses to Utico's revised offer.

The Singapore firm said it wrote to Sias' lawyers on Sept 14 asking for the investor advocacy group's assistance in seeking input from the PnP holders Sias is in contact with, and to relay any feedback to Utico. To date, Hyflux has not received any requests for assistance from Sias or its lawyers, the company said on Thursday.

Hyflux on Thursday also clarified that Utico is "wholly responsible for the content" of the Sept 30 letter, and that Hyflux "should not be taken to be endorsing, confirming or agreeing with Utico and/or any part of the letter".

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