Gulf Energy mulls tender offer for shares in AIS

Gulf Energy mulls tender offer for shares in AIS

A sign promotes '5G' at the AIS store at CentralWorld shopping mall in Bangkok. Nutthawat Wicheanbut
A sign promotes '5G' at the AIS store at CentralWorld shopping mall in Bangkok. Nutthawat Wicheanbut

SET-listed Gulf Energy Development, Thailand's biggest private power producer by market value, says it may consider making a tender offer for the country's biggest mobile operator Advanced Info Service's (AIS) shares on the same day it does with the carrier's major shareholder InTouch Holdings.

The move was based on Gulf's board meeting on May 28 and the Stock Exchange of Thailand was notified on the same day.

The approach differs from the company's earlier statement issued in April that it would commence the tender offer for all securities in AIS after having acquired 50% or more of the total voting rights in InTouch.

The fresh move is meant to "avoid an impact that may cause fluctuations in share prices and trading volumes of ordinary shares in AIS and to minimise confusion to the shareholders of AIS if the company would have to launch a tender offer for all securities in AIS in accordance with the chain principle," Gulf stated.

According to Gulf's May 28 statement sent to SET, its tender offer price for AIS shares is 120.93 baht per share. This was revised down from the 122.86 baht per share offer price it indicated in April.

Pisut Ngamvijitvong, senior director of the analysis department at Kasikorn Securities (KS), said Gulf's vigorous efforts to make a tender offer for AIS's shares suggests there might be some good news waiting to happen after the acquisition.

"Personally, this quicker move coincides with some work going on with National Telecom [NT]," he said.

NT was established from the merger of state telecom enterprises CAT Telecom and TOT.

The good news may include partnership deals between NT and private telecom operators, he said.

NT is now figuring out its 5G business plan on the 700-megahertz range as well as new business to boost its revenue stream in the future.

NT is in talks with AIS and True Move H Universal Communication (TUC) for their initial proposals' condition of partnership deal through NT's 700-MHz band investment with their 2600-MHz network and cellular stations.

According to an industry source who requested anonymity, Gulf is close to the government's key figures as well as Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, who once served as an executive at Gulf. The DES ministry oversees NT.

In April, Gulf said it aims to invest in InTouch's shares through a conditional voluntary tender with the tender offer price of 65 baht per share.

The tender offer covers 2.59 billion shares of InTouch, or up to 81.07% of the total issued and paid shares in the firm. Gulf already has 606.8 million shares of InTouch, a 18.93% stake. InTouch holds 1.2 billion shares in AIS, or a 40.45% stake.

According to a May 28 statement, Gulf maintains its key condition that the tender offer for both InTouch and AIS's securities will happen only after the Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) grants the firm a waiver of the obligation to make a tender offer for securities in SET-listed satellite service provider Thaicom in accordance with the chain principle.

InTouch holds a 41.13% stake in Thaicom.

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