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SK Group disposes of stake in securities unit

SK Group sold its 24-million-share stake in SK Securities Co. in a block deal on Tuesday, a move seen as a measure to preclude penalties for breaking the fair trade law.

The shares owned by SKC Inc., the group’s industrial film-making affiliate, account for 7.73 percent of the total and were traded at 1,920 won ($1.77) each, about 10 percent down from Monday’s closing price.

Samsung Asset Management acquired 8.9 million shares, and about 11 institutional investors split the remainder. SK Networks remains the securities firm’s largest stakeholder with 22.71 percent.

The sell-off comes as the country’s third-largest conglomerate nears its cut-off date for obeying fair trade laws that prohibit a non-financial holding firm from holding stock in a financial company.

Despite a revision bill submitted to the National Assembly in April 2009 to allow such a practice, its passage has been increasingly unlikely, putting the group under pressure.

SK Group was given four years of a grace period, which is due to expire July 2, to sell its shares in SK Securities. If failed, it would face about 10 billion won in penalty.

Market observers predicted that the SK Securities stake will eventually be sold to SK C&C, the group’s information technology services arm, to maintain the current shareholding structure. SK Group denied such speculation.

Shares of SK Securities closed down about 10.4 percent at 1,900 won Tuesday on the Korea Exchange.

By Shin Hyon-hee (