SINGAPORE'S sale of the century, the float of the Government's prized asset, Singapore Telecom, has reaped a return of S$4.34 billion (about HK$21 billion). This was announced yesterday when the Government reported that a total of 1.68 billion shares, ranging in price from S$1.90 to S$3.60 - the strike price for the tender tranche - would be supplied to successful applicants. This represents 11 per cent of Singapore Telecom, which had a capital base of 15.25 billion shares last October. The Government has said it plans to sell up to 25 per cent of Singapore Telecom over the next five to seven years but Communications Minister Mah Bow Tan told a press conference that the next sale of the company's shares would not take place for at least another year. The Government's return on this initial public offering comes on top of some S$2 billion it received when Singapore Telecom was corporatised. Its original seed capital was S$300 million. But Lum Choong Wah, president of Temasek Holdings, the Government investment arm which carried out the sale, said the vendor would ''not be charging around to spend the money''. Temasek, which initially made available a total of 1.1 billion shares, received applications for 4.5 billion shares. A total of 1.48 million Singaporeans, out of 1.7 million eligible citizens, applied for 837 million Group A Shares, which were priced at S$2 but carry an up-front five per cent discount and will attract 40 ''loyalty'' shares for each 100 retained over six years. Temasek will add 487 million shares to the original 350 million set aside to satisfy Group A demand in full. Just under 800,000 Singaporeans also applied for Group B Shares, which were priced at S$2 without a discount, and like Group A Shares, were reserved for citizens. Although Temasek originally set a maximum of 1,000 shares for Group B applicants, Mr Mah said it had been decided to provide each applicant with just 200 shares so ''no one would be disappointed''. The initial offering of 550 million Group C shares was oversubscribed fivefold. Of the 2.8 billion shares applied for, 1.5 billion (55 per cent) carried bids of S$3.49 and below while some 400 million (14 per cent) were priced at S$4 and above. Mr Mah said the highest bid was S$100 for one lot. ''I guess he wanted it really bad,'' he said. Temasek has put in an additional 100.48 million shares (on top of the original 550 million) so that all valid applications above the tender strike price of S$3.60 can be accepted in full. Valid applications at the strike price will be scaled down proportionately to 20 per cent of the amount tendered for. The press conference was told that 27 per cent of the Group C applications would go to bids from the five international marketing agents responsible for promoting the Telecom share float abroad. But it is assumed other foreign bidders made applications through local banks. The strike price of S$3.60 represents an historic price-earnings multiple of 54 times and a prospective PE of 48 times. But foreign fund managers who earlier said Singapore Telecom would be overpriced if it exceeded S$3 appear to have been caught up in the bullish excitement of the local market and will be watching for buy opportunities when the market opens, although some caution prevails. Kay Hian James Capel researcher Yang Sy Jian said S$3.60 was within market expectations but if it had been any higher there would have been some concern. He said there would be some activity on the market when trading began in Singapore Telecom shares but the upside would ''not be that great''. ''I don't think people will be willing to pay S$4,'' he said. Mr Mah said the response of Singaporeans to the share offer was ''much better than we dared to hope''. He warned that because of the large number of people now holding Singapore Telecom shares there might be some congestion and some delays when trading began on Monday. He asked people to be patient. He also said the Government hoped that Singaporeans would hold on to their Group A shares and not sell them at the first opportunity. He said first-time investors should ''not be distracted by short-term fluctuations and gains''. But analysts expected many Singaporeans to seek to turn a quick profit by selling their S$1.90 and S$2 shares.