Bidders are expected to submit final offers next month for a minority stake in T Map Mobility, the mobility business split off from South Korean telco SK Telecom, but some appear likely to pull out of the race due to doubts over its growth prospects.
Several private equity groups, including Affirma Capital and IMM Private Equity, were shortlisted earlier this month for the sale of a stake worth about 300 billion won ($268.8 million). They have been conducting due diligence and reportedly were told by T Map Mobility that the final round of bidding had been scheduled for February 25.
The company is relying on the growth potential of the mobility industry and its popular navigation app, T Map, to attract interest from investors. The app holds a market share of over 60%, with a membership of more than 18 million and 13 million monthly users, and T Map Mobility intends to grow its business by focusing on innovative mobility solutions such as mobility on demand and mobility as a service.
A strategic partnership with Uber also could lead to further growth. T Map Mobility and the U.S. car-hailing company recently announced a joint venture to collaborate on taxi-hailing services, with Uber contributing $100 million into the venture and also investing $50 million in T Map Mobility at a valuation of 1 trillion won ($894.6 million).
SK Telecom, the parent of T Map Mobility, expects the company to be worth 4.5 trillion won within five years, and aims to list its shares by 2025.
But while the shortlisted bidders are optimistic about the growth potential of the mobility sector, they are unsure whether T Map Mobility will be able to continue its market dominance, as rival Kakao Mobility is already taking the lead in mobility areas like taxi-hailing and connected parking services.
There is little room for price negotiation, which also makes the investment less attractive. T Map Mobility made it clear that it wants investors to use the 1 trillion won valuation, which was set in the transaction with Uber, as a reference.
“Whether investors will remain in the race depends on their view of the company’s growth prospects,” said an industry insider. “Negotiations may take a long time if the two sides cannot reach an agreement on the price.” (Reporting by Hee-yeon Han)