Hong Kong tycoon Woo's Wharf agrees to sell telecom unit to TPG, MBK for $1.2 billion
Banners advertising Wharf Holdings' internet business are displayed on a street in Hong Kong June 10, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo
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By Denny Thomas
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong tycoon Peter Woo's Wharf Holdings Ltd <0004.HK> has agreed to sell its telecom business to a consortium of private equity firms TPG Capital Management LP and MBK Partners Inc for HK$9.5 billion ($1.22 billion), the company said on Tuesday.
Reuters earlier reported the sale of the business, Wharf T&T - the city's second-largest fixed-line operator for businesses, according to the firm's website.
Wharf said in March it was conducting a strategic review of its communications, media and entertainment arm to focus on its main property development and investment businesses.
Wharf owns marquee Hong Kong properties including the Times Square and Harbour City shopping malls.
Tuesday's sale does not include television broadcaster i-Cable Communications Ltd <1097.HK>, which is also part of the communications, media and entertainment business. Wharf said a strategic review of i-Cable was not completed.
"We are very impressed with Wharf T&T's successful track record of establishing a client base of over 50,000 enterprises in Hong Kong and of building a leading ubiquitous fiber network," Teck Chien Kong, partner, MBK Partners said. (http://bit.ly/2dcvm1H)
MBK Partners, run by former Carlyle Group executive Michael Kim, has a long track record of investing in Asian technology, media and telecommunications assets, including Taiwanese network TV operator China Network Systems, cable television network Gala TV and Japanese software maker Yayoi.
TPG has also invested in a wide range of telecom companies in Asia, including telecommunications service provider Asia Netcom (now known as Pacnet) and Japan Telecom (now known as SoftBank Telecom).
The field of contenders to buy the telecom business had narrowed to the TPG-MBK group and telecom firm HKBN Ltd <1310.HK>.
Wharf T&T had its best-ever half year results, Wharf Holdings said last month. A surge in demand for its data transmission and high-speed internet service for corporate clients helped operating profit jump 24 percent to HK$214 million from a year earlier.
Wharf said its communications, media and entertainment segment accounted for just 9 percent of group revenue and 1 percent of operating profit.
Wharf Holdings shares have gained nearly a third since the March strategic review announcement, while shares in I-Cable have nearly doubled.
The deal is expected to close in November. Goldman Sachs (Asia) LLC advised Wharf.
(Reporting by Denny Thomas; Additional reporting by Elzio Barreto in Hong Kong and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)
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