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Business deals

Singapore's Hyflux faces 5 p.m. deadline to accept bailout offer

UAE-based Utico's ultimatum follows long negotiations with water company

Bottles of NEWater, a product from water treatment company Hyflux, are displayed in Singapore. (Nikkei montage with Reuters image)

SINGAPORE -- Singapore's Hyflux faces a deadline of 5 p.m. local time Friday to accept a bailout offer from a potential Middle Eastern investor or search elsewhere, lawyers for the debt-laden water treatment group said.

Utico, a United Arab Emirates-based utility provider, issued the time limit during negotiations Wednesday, lawyers said on Thursday.

A withdrawal of the offer would send a major supplier of the city-state's drinking water searching for a new turnaround sponsor in a debt crisis that has already lasted a year and a half.

Utico has proposed 400 million Singapore dollars ($293 million) in financing for Hyflux in exchange for an 88% stake.

Hyflux, which is shouldering SG$2.8 billion worth of debt, had hoped to reach a deal in October. But the company was unable to resolve differences with creditors regarding fund distribution and other matters.

Founded in 1989, Hyflux runs desalination and water treatment facilities essential for Singapore's water independence. But the company's offshore business has generated poor earnings, and its entry into the domestic power-generating business has stumbled.

Hyflux has said that another white knight will emerge if Utico decides to bow out. But in light of the delays in paying back debt, some voices have called for the company's liquidation.

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