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Dodo owner M2 Group makes a bid for iiNet ownership

M2 Group, the parent company of Dodo and iPrimus, has made a multi-billion dollar offer to acquire iiNet just one month after TPG announced its intentions to buy out the ISP.

The owner of Dodo, M2 Group, is hovering over iiNet in the hopes of acquiring the ISP. Dodo

Just one month after TPG revealed its plans to buy out iiNet and take over ownership of the locally-run internet service provider, a rival ISP has announced its intentions to one-up the offer.

M2 Group, the parent company of service providers Dodo and iPrimus, as well as VOiP provider Engin and business communications company Commander, has confirmed it has made an offer to iiNet to acquire 100 percent of the company.

Unlike TPG's offer of AU$8.60 per share in cash, M2 has put a price tag of AU$11.37 on each iiNet share as part of the $2.25 billion deal. Under the proposal, iiNet shareholders would receive 0.803 M2 shares as well as AU$0.75 for each share they own in iiNet.

As with the original TPG acquisition, news of M2 ownership and a closer allegiance with Dodo has left some customers questioning the future of iiNet.

However, shortly after the announcement, M2 Group CEO Geoff Horth said the company would work to "maintain the iiNet brand" and preserve the level of service offered by the ISP.

"We both go to market in different ways but frankly I think we have very similar philosophies," he said of M2 and iiNet. "We'll be working very hard to preserve the value of the iiNet brand and the passion of its people and its customer advocacy as part of this transaction."

Noting that M2 had looked on iiNet's reputation "with a degree of envy" Horth added that M2 would be "working very carefully to protect the brand values and the customer proposition [at iiNet] because they've been hard-won".

In a bid to maintain continuity if the company was bought out, M2 says it has also offered two existing iiNet directors positions on the board of the enlarged M2 Group.

The future of iiNet has already been subject to much speculation since TPG showed its cards with a buy-out offer on March 13.

While a deal between TPG and iiNet was welcomed by the board, subject to shareholder and ACCC approval, iiNet's founder and former CEO Michael Malone later came out in staunch opposition to the deal, saying it was bad news for shareholders.

"My family and I do not believe this deal as it is structured is in the best interests of shareholders, staff or customers," he said. "Indeed, it is appallingly silent on the impact on staff and customers.

"It's not the time to sell, it's a time for change."

According to reports in the Australian Financial Review, Malone also called on the current iiNet board to "leave" should the deal fail to eventuate, saying "they have run out of ideas on how to grow this great company."

TPG has three business days to respond to M2's acquisition proposal and counter with another offer.

M2 declined to provide further comment on its takeover bid, while iiNet and TPG did not respond to requests for comment.

Updated at 3:30 p.m. AEST: Included comments from M2 Group CEO Geoff Horth.