First-round bids for Singapore telco reportedly due in a few weeks.

China Mobile is among several firms mulling a move for Singapore’s M1.

This is according to sources cited by Reuters late last week, who said that the telco’s three major shareholders – Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), Malaysia’s Axiata Investments, and Keppel Telecommunications and Transportation – have reached out to gauge the interest of various potential suitors, including other telcos, private equity firms, cash-rich business groups in China, and Japanese tech firms.

First-round bids for M1, the country’s third-largest player, are due in a few weeks, the sources said, adding that talks between the parties are said to be at an early stage.

M1’s big three holders in March appointed Morgan Stanley to help them conduct a strategic review.

They gave no specific reason for launching it; however, it comes at a time of impending change in Singapore.

The country’s big three operators, which as well as M1, includes StarHub and incumbent Singtel, are preparing for the arrival of a new competitor in the form of Australia-based TPG Telecom.

All four players also recently took part in a spectrum auction that raised S$1.15 billion. The licences come with coverage obligations that require them to improve indoor coverage, and coverage of major transport infrastructure.

The prospect of higher capital expenditure, while having to defend against a new rival in a saturated market, is perhaps why M1’s controlling shareholders are looking for an exit.