Korean companies skeptical of M&As: Merrill Lynch

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 22, 2014 - 20:57
  • Updated : Apr 22, 2014 - 20:57
(From left) Mark Wuscher, managing director and head of global transaction services, Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Seoul
Shin Jin-wook, branch manager and head of corporate banking, Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Seoul
Chief financial officers at Korean companies displayed a low level of commitment to business expansion in the form of mergers and acquisitions, according to a survey conducted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

On Tuesday, the global investment bank held a press conference at its Seoul headquarters to present its 2014 business vision report for Asia.

The related survey was conducted from January through February this year on 639 chief financial officers in a dozen Asia-Pacific countries. Among them, 76 were from Korean or Korea-based companies.

The report showed that almost 70 percent of the Korean CFOs said they had no plans to implement M&As this year, which was the fourth-highest among respondent states, ranking behind Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

This showed that Korea was largely indifferent or skeptical to mergers and acquisitions, especially compared to Asian rivals such as China.

In clear contrast to such passiveness, however, Korea as a target of investment is becoming increasingly attractive to potential investors.

In terms of M&A preference, Korea’s ranking rose from eighth last year to fourth this year, the report showed.

China, which was the unbeaten champion last year, fell to the world’s fifth, giving in to newlyrising countries such as India, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

“Our multinational clients, especially those based in the United States or Europe, pointed out that Korea is a highly strategic market and thus a stable investment,” said Mark Wuscher, managing director and head of global transaction services.

“Also, it turned out over past experiences that one of the most efficient ways to expand into the Korean market is to acquire a firm Korean company.”

But Korean companies still tend to be skeptical of M&As, partly because they have a general fear of liquidity shortages and also because a number of M&As in the private sector have been unsuccessful.

Among the Korean respondents, 49 percent said that liquidity was the greatest financial risk, whereas the corresponding average in the Asia-Pacific region was a mere 29 percent, the survey showed.

“Korean companies prefer to focus on internal growth, instead of spending their spare cash on M&A expansion,” said Shin Jin-wook, Seoul branch manager of Merrill Lynch.

By Bae Hyun-jung (