Tycoons try again to take over Guthrie

PHOTO: Tycoons try again to take over Guthrie

SINGAPORE - The chairman of Singapore's oldest company, Guthrie GTS, is making another bid to take over the property and engineering group - but this time with a view to delisting it.

Guthrie's non-executive chairman Putra Masagung and billionaire tycoon Anthoni Salim op Friday launched a voluntary offer after market close to buy the company at 88 cents a share in cash.

This values the engineering and property group at $948.6 million and represents a 21.4 per cent premium over the company's closing price on Wednesday of 72.5 cents per share. Trading in the company's shares was halted on Thursday and Friday.

Mr Masagung and Mr Salim, who own a combined 69.2 per cent of Guthrie, intend to delist the firm from the Singapore Exchange (SGX) mainboard, where it has been listed since 1974.

In a statement to the SGX, the two Indonesian-born tycoons said the offer gives shareholders a chance to cash out at an "attractive premium" over the share price, especially in the light of the counter's low trading liquidity.

Guthrie's 52-week closing high was 81 cents in February, while the 52-week closing low was 56 cents in July last year.

Fewer than 650,000 Guthrie shares - 0.06 per cent of the total issued shares - changed hands every day on average over the last 12 months, said the offerors.

Mr Masagung and Mr Salim also believe that taking Guthrie private will give the company greater control and management flexibility, allowing it to become more efficient and competitive.

The two businessmen previously launched an offer for Guthrie in 2007, although then, they said they would preserve Guthrie's listing status.

At the time, they initially offered 39.5 cents a share, before raising their bid to 43.5 cents.

The current offer is being made through United SM Holdings, a joint venture company set up by Hearty Gains and Activewatch, which are each 100 per cent owned by Mr Salim and Mr Masagung respectively.

Both companies have a near-equal share in the joint venture, but Mr Salim - head of the Salim Group, one of Asia's largest conglomerates - has a majority ownership with one extra share.

Guthrie was founded in 1821 as trading house Guthrie & Company by Scotsman Alexander Guthrie. In 1988, the firm was acquired by the Masagung family and its name was changed to Guthrie GTS.

Guthrie is now involved in engineering, property development and management in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and China, and hotels and golf resorts in Indonesia and Laos.

In Singapore, it partly owns Jurong Point and manages nex in Serangoon, the country's two largest suburban malls.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.