Potential buyers revealed

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Potential buyers revealed

The first round in the battle between Kumho Asiana Group Chairman Park Sam-koo and other investment groups to acquire Kumho Industrial, majority shareholder of Asiana Airlines, has begun.

Park’s biggest competitor looks to be Shinsegae Group, which operates the nation’s leading discount supermarket chain and department store.

Also submitting letters of intent to buy Kumho Industrial by the 2 p.m. Wednesday deadline were Hoban Construction; IBK Securities-Keistone Partners (or IBK Fund); Jabez Partners; MBK Partners; and IMM. Korea Development Bank (KDB) and Credit Suisse are in charge of the sale.

KDB said the letters of intent indicate only a willingness to acquire the construction company, not a specific price.

Creditors will announce a preferred bidder in May.

“We decided to jump into this bidding as we thought Kumho Industrial is a worthy investment,” said a spokesman for IBK Fund.

Kumho Industrial has drawn interest because ownership of the company would include management rights of Kumho Asiana Group’s many affiliates. The company owns 30 percent of Asiana Airlines and 100 percent of Kumho Terminal, Asiana Airport Development and Asiana IDT, an IT company.

“I will let matters run their course,” said Park, the Kumho Asiana Group chief. “I will do what I can in order to have people around me not worry about this.”

Park isn’t worrying because he has the right of preemption, which will allow him to offer more than the other bidders.

He has a 5.3 percent stake of Kumho Industrial while his eldest son, Se-chang, vice president of Kumho Tire, owns 5.1 percent. In order to take over the ownership, Park needs to acquire a 40 percent stake of the company from creditors.

Industry insiders say Kumho Industrial will be sold for 600 billion won ($546 million) to 800 billion won.

They estimated the amount of money that Park could use to acquire Kumho Industrial at 150 billion won. There are rumors that Park might team up with the Military Mutual Aid Association, which is considered an amicable investor.

When Kumho Tire was for sale in 2003, the military association purchased a 70 percent of stake in the company and later sold 32.14 percent to Park.

One of the potential buyers attracting attention is Hoban Construction. Industry insiders say the company has cashable assets of 600 billion won with a debt-equity ratio of about 16 percent.

The company was identified as a strong potential buyer after purchasing 6.16 percent of Kumho Industrial in November.

However, the company reduced its stake to 4.95 percent in January, making more than 23 billion won in profit.

BY KWON SANG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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