SmarTone shareholder BT might consider accepting a general offer from Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) as a way to exit its investment in the mobile phone operator, according to independent adviser ING Bank. The remarks came despite the Dutch bank advising other shareholders not to accept an offer it described as 'not fair and reasonable'. Shareholders could realise a higher value for their shares by selling them on the market than by accepting SHKP's offer at HK$8.25, ING said. However, large shareholders, including the British telecommunications company, which owns 20.75 per cent, might not be able to sell for more because of the low liquidity of the shares. 'Shareholders who believe that, because of the size of their shareholding, they will be unable to sell the shares in the open market at a price higher than the offer price for the share should consider the offer as an alternative exit for their investment,' ING told shareholders yesterday. An analyst at a European brokerage said the chances of BT accepting the general offer were high. He had been told BT management was 'seriously considering' the option. However, a BT Asia-Pacific official said the company had not made a decision. 'It is far too early for us to make any decision,' David Clarke said. BT, as with other shareholders, has until the end of the month to tender its shares to SHKP. Yesterday, SmarTone shares fell 2.85 per cent to HK$8.50, still 3.03 per cent above the offer price. BT paid HK$3 billion for a 20 per cent stake in SmarTone in April 1999, at an entry price of HK$25 - or almost 300 per cent more than the prevailing price. It is laden with debts after bidding for a third-generation licence in Britain and has been trying to exit its SmarTone investment for two years. If it accepts SHKP's offer, it will suffer a loss of nearly HK$2 billion, while cashing out about HK$1 billion. It would give SHKP more than 50 per cent of SmarTone, up from 30 per cent at present. ING Bank said the SHKP offer, which represented a discount of 5.2 per cent prior to the announcement and was only 0.6 per cent above the average closing price in the previous 30 trading days, was largely below the share price over the past year. It was also below book value but above the net cash value per share, which stood at HK$6.14. Analysts said ING's advice to shareholders was logical. Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Christopher Fang said: 'It was fair enough. Individual investors can get more from selling to the market, but large shareholders can probably get more from selling to SHKP.'