Affirma Capital and EastBridge Partners submitted binding offers on Thursday (March 4) for a minority stake in T Map Mobility, the mobility subsidiary of SK Telecom, making the auction a two-way battle between the private equity groups.
As many expected, they were the only two firms left in the race after nearly two months of due diligence. Both were shortlisted for the final round of bidding in the middle of January along with IMM Private Equity, which later decided to pull out.
T Map Mobility was spun off from SK Telecom in December last year as part of efforts by the telco to expand its platform services in the fast-growing mobility market.
SK Telecom and Uber announced a joint venture in October, which was approved by the Korea Fair Trade Commission in February and is expected to be operational in April. The U.S. ride-hailing giant agreed to put $100 million into the joint venture and $50 million into T Map Mobility in a deal that valued the mobility unit at 1 trillion won ($887.3 million).
The bidders have little room to negotiate the price since SK Telecom asked them to use the steep valuation as a reference. To offset this disadvantage, they have worked hard on due diligence to find leverage points that can be used to offer strong protections.
T Map Mobility is relying on the growth potential of the mobility business to attract investors. SK Telecom is telling potential buyers that T Map Mobility will be able to become the dominant player in the overall mobility market in the foreseeable future, supported by the unit’s popular navigation app T Map and its taxi-hailing joint venture with Uber.
SK Telecom expects its value to reach 4.5 trillion won by 2025. (Reporting by Hee-yeon Han)