TAIPEI Ting Hsin International Group, parent of Chinese noodle maker Tingyi Holding (0322.HK), and Foxconn Technology Group have launched rival bids for small Taiwanese mobile telecoms operator Asia Pacific Telecom Co (3682.TW), a source with direct knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.
The bids highlights the growing battle among newcomers like Ting Hsin and Apple Inc (AAPL.O) supplier Foxconn to compete in Taiwan's developing 4G mobile services sector with current leaders, Chunghwa Telecom (2412.TW), Taiwan Mobile (3045.TW) and Far Eastone Telecommunications (4904.TW). The 4G network, not yet up and running, will offer faster data streaming, appealing to smartphone users.
"Ting Hsin eagerly wants to merge with Asia Pacific," the source told Reuters. "Such a merger would create bigger synergies than one between Foxconn and Asia Pacific." Ting Hsin already owns a small telecoms business, while Foxconn has a 4G operating license but no telecoms network of its own.
Foxconn's flagship unit and Apple iPhone maker, Hon Hai Precision (2317.TW), is in talks to buy 22 percent of Asia Pacific Telecom, local media reported this week, citing unidentified sources. Asia Pacific Telecom has a market capitalization of about $1.8 billion.
The source declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the matter.
Officials at the companies involved were not immediately available for comment.
For Ting Hsin, a deal could take the form of merging Asia Pacific Telecom with its own telecoms unit, or swapping stocks between the two, said the source. Asia Pacific Telecom is expected to make a decision later this month, the source said.
Foxconn's offer to buy 22 percent Asia Pacific Telecom - all of the company's stock held by Taiwan government-owned enterprises - would be worth T$11 billion to T$14 billion ($365 million to $464 million), the media said.
The company successfully sought a 4G license after chairman Terry Gou said he wanted Foxconn to diversify from pure manufacturing as sales of big-margin smartphones such as the iPhone slow worldwide.
Shares of Asia Pacific ended up 4.4 percent, beating the broader market's .TWII 0.2 percent slide. Hon Hai was off 0.2 percent.
($1 = 30.1255 Taiwan Dollars)
(Reporting by Faith Hung; Editing by Richard Pullin and Kenneth Maxwell)