UPDATE 2-Malaysia's Axiata accepts offer for Singapore mobile operator M1

(Adds Keppel, SPH statement)

KUALA LUMPUR/SINGAPORE, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Malaysia’s Axiata Group, the largest shareholder in Singapore mobile operator M1 Ltd, has accepted a bid from Singapore investors that valued M1 at S$1.9 billion ($1.4 billion).

In a statement late on Friday, the telecoms group said it would book an estimated gain of 126.5 million ringgit ($31 million) after selling its 28.7 percent stake in M1 for about 1.65 billion ringgit.

Last year, Singapore conglomerate Keppel Corp and Singapore Press Holdings launched an offer to gain majority control of M1. They offered S$2.06 for each M1 share, aiming to restructure it to better compete with sector rivals.

Keppel and SPH said on Friday they had obtained majority control of M1 and their offer was now unconditional.

In September, Axiata said the offer should reflect the accurate future value of M1, inclusive of an acceptable control premium and consistent with market standards.

“It is actually not an easy decision for us. We like our investment in M1 and believe in its long-term future,” Jamaludin Ibrahim, Group CEO of Axiata, said in a statement. “At the same time, we need to undertake a major reprioritisation and make better use of our capital,” Ibrahim said.

Axiata said it also preferred not to be a minority investor in a potentially private company.

Sources familiar with the situation said Axiata’s talks with funds and private equity firms to explore its own offer for M1 failed due to lack of interest from third parties and as it reviewed its own growth strategy.

Last month, the Singapore consortium said it would not raise its offer price.

($1=4.0830 ringgit)

$1 = 1.3580 Singapore dollars Reporting by Liz Lee in KUALA LUMPUR and Anshuman Daga in SINGAPORE; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Mark Potter