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Minority shareholders in the Singapore-listed holding company through which Richard Li controls PCCW on Friday rejected a buy-out bid from the telecoms tycoon, setting the stage for a climactic vote next week.
Shareholders in Pacific Century Regional Developments turned down Richard Li’s offer of S$0.305 a share, compared with their current market value of S$0.415. They will vote again November 30 to approve or reject the proposed $1.2bn sale of PCRD’s 23 per cent stake in PCCW, Hong Kong’s largest telecoms company, to a consortium backed by Mr Li’s father, the tycoon Li Ka-shing.
Friday’s expected vote stemmed from an offer, originally extended by TPG-Newbridge of the US in February, to buy out PCRD’s minorities for S$0.27 a share and take the company private. At the time, Newbridge’s offer represented a 17 per cent premium. According to an executive close to the deal, it was intended to facilitate Richard Li’s potential exit from PCCW at a later date.
But when Macquarie made a $7bn bid for PCCW’s assets in June, PCRD’s shares soared in anticipation of a bidding war between the Australian bank and Newbridge.
China Netcom, PCCW’s second largest shareholder after PCRD, derailed the bidding war by insisting that the telecoms firm should be controlled by Hong Kong investors. That opened the door for Francis Leung, a prominent Hong Kong investment banker and friend of Li Ka-shing, who offered to lead a consortium that would pay $1.2bn for the 23 per cent stake.
With foreign control of PCCW effectively disallowed by China Netcom’s objection, Newbridge’s original offer was revised and assumed by Richard Li.
Earlier this month Mr Leung revealed that his consortium would also include Li Ka-shing and Telefonica, the Spanish telecoms giant.
That revelation upset Richard Li, who has long sought to escape his father’s shadow, and moved the Singapore Stock Exchange to rule that he would be banned from voting on the transaction. On Wednesday, Richard Li was quoted as saying that he would not be disappointed if PCRD’s minorities reject Mr Leung’s offer next week.