A consortium backed by Hotel Properties—controlled by billionaire Ong Beng Seng and wife Christina Ong—and units of Singapore state-owned investment firm Temasek raised its bid for the commercial properties held by Singapore Press Holdings by as much as 14%, valuing SPH at S$3.9 billion ($2.9 billion).
The latest offer by Cuscaden Peak—which is owned 40% by Hotel Properties and Ong—gives SPH shareholders the option of accepting an all-cash offer of S$2.36 per share or S$1.602 cash per share plus 0.782 SPH REIT shares with an indicative value of S$2.40 per SPH share. Units of Temasek’s CLA Real Estate Holdings and Mapletree Investments hold 30% stakes each in the consortium.
The options put forth by Cuscaden trumps the revised offer of S$2.351 per share made by Keppel Corp.—the property and oil-rig giant also linked to Temasek—last week. The company’s independent directors have recommended that SPH shareholders vote in favor of Cuscaden’s more compelling offer, SPH said in a statement on Monday.
The bidding war for SPH’s assets escalated as the publisher of the Straits Times undertakes a restructuring of its media business. The restructuring—which calls for the spinoff of the newspaper publisher into a non-profit entity—was approved by shareholders in September and expected to be completed next month.
Hotel Properties—owner of the Four Seasons Hotel in Singapore—has said its investment in SPH will help generate better returns longer term. Should Cuscaden succeed in acquiring SPH, it will be obliged to undertake an offer for SPH REIT, which owns commercial properties including its crown jewel Paragon, a shopping mall in Singapore’s Orchard Road shopping belt, and the Westfield Marion Shopping Centre in Adelaide, Australia.
With a net worth of $1.7 billion, Ong and wife Christina ranked No. 25 on the list of Singapore’s 50 Richest that was published in August. He is the managing director of Hotel Properties, which has interests 38 hotels and resorts across 15 countries in Asia, Europe, South Africa and the U.S. Christina runs Como Hotels & Resorts, retail empire Club 21 and London-listed handbag maker Mulberry.