Singapore's United Engineers to launch counterbid for WBL Corp

SINGAPORE Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:36am EST

SINGAPORE Jan 30 (Reuters) - Singapore's United Engineers Ltd said it will launch a rival bid for WBL Corp Ltd , topping an earlier offer from Straits Tradings Co Ltd and valuing the auto and property conglomerate at around $890 million.

United Engineers has offered to buy the remaining 61.7 percent of WBL Corp Ltd that it and its partners do not own for S$670.4 million ($540 million), bidding S$4.00 per share in its all-cash offer.

Straits Trading, which owns a stake of almost 45 percent in WBL, has offered to buy the rest of WBL shares for S$3.41 in cash, before dividends, or for 1.07 Straits Trading shares.

Shares in WBL, which also has technology, engineering and distribution businesses, last traded at S$4.20 on Wednesday amid speculation of a bidding war.

WBL's sizeable China property portfolio would allow United Engineers to diversify beyond Singapore, United Engineers Chief Executive Jackson Yap said in a statement.

He added that WBL's automotive division would create a new source of recurring income to offset the fluctuations in property development.

A battle for WBL would come amid increased M&A activity in Singapore, particularly in the property sector as many real estate companies are trading at a discount to their revised net asset values.

Earlier this month, the chairman of SC Global Developments Ltd, Simon Cheong, gained control of more than 90 percent of the property developer, paving the way for him to privatise the company.

United Engineers is being advised by JP Morgan, while Straits Trading's adviser is Standard Chartered