UOL offers to take Pan Pacific Hotels private

UOL Group, the Singapore property developer controlled by billionaire Wee Cho Yaw, plans to take its hotel unit Pan Pacific Hotels Group private.

UOL, which already owns 81.6 per cent of Singapore-based Pan Pacific, is offering to buy the rest of the hotel operator’s shares at S$2.55 apiece, it said yesterday in a statement filed with the Singapore Exchange. This represents a 9-per-cent premium to Thursday’s close.

The proposed buyout, which will cost UOL about S$280 million, comes after shares of Pan Pacific rose almost 30 per cent over the past year, reaching a high of S$2.54 on Feb 27. The stock is trading at 19.7 times earnings, compared with the average multiple of 26.5 for hotel and restaurant operators in Singapore, according to Bloomberg data.

The offer “will provide an exit option for those shareholders who wish to realise their entire investment in the shares but find it difficult to do so as a result of the low trading liquidity of the shares and low free float of the shares”, UOL said.

UOL said it did not plan to change the business of Pan Pacific, which runs more than 30 properties in the Asia-Pacific region and North America, including 13 hotels under the Parkroyal brand.

UOL said the hotel operator had not tapped the markets for funds in 20 years except for a rights offer in 2007, adding that it would not likely need financing.

Trading in Pan Pacific and UOL shares was halted yesterday. Pan Pacific shares closed at S$2.34 on Thursday, giving it a market capitalisation of S$1.4 billion, while UOL ended at S$7.26, giving it a market value of S$5.6 billion after the stock surged 68 per cent in the past year.

Also yesterday, UOL reported net profit fell 15 per cent year-on-year to S$71.7 million in the first quarter ended March 31, mainly due to higher foreign exchange losses and lower contributions from hotel operations, which were affected by the opening costs of Parkroyal on Pickering

Revenue fell 17 per cent to S$247.8 million as the completion of Meadows@Peirce and Double Bay Residences last year and the near completion of Waterbank at Dakota in the second quarter of this year reduced contributions from property development.

Source : Today – 11 May 2013

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