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FSC eyes concessions for Woori sale

Agency appears determined to wrap up privatization

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Published : 2014-06-23 21:02
Updated : 2014-06-23 21:49

The nation’s financial authorities appeared to be ready to stick to its guns when it comes to selling Woori Bank at all costs to put an end to the long-stalled privatization efforts by the end of this year.

For this, the Financial Services Commission is willing to make a number of compromises, one of which is a two-track sales method that would allow small-sum investors to participate in the deal.

“The priority is to maximize the feasibility (of the Woori Bank sale),” said FSC chairman Shin Je-yoon on Monday.
 
The nation’s financial policy engine held a public funds management committee meeting on Monday, seeking strategies to add vigor to the slow-paced sales of the state-run bank.

The most tangible outcome of the day’s meeting was the FSC’s approval of the two-track sales method, which means that the government’s 56.97 percent stake will be split and sold in pieces.

Under this system, investors who only seek financial profits may purchase small-sum shares, while bidders eyeing management rights may go after the 30 percent bulk share, according to FSC officials.

Also, to sweeten the deal, a call option will be added to allow small-sum investors to buy extra shares for the next three years at a fixed price.
Park Sang-yong, the FSC’s public funds management committee chairman. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

The official sales announcement will be made in September and the consequent bidding will take place in October, officials said.

But despite all these added perks, the financial supervisor admits that the long-delayed disposal of the bank, especially amid ongoing financial hardships, is quite challenging.

“The situation concerning the sales of Woori Bank is far from easy, and new systems such as the two-track sales channel and the call option may lead to unexpected complications,” Shin said.

He nevertheless claimed that the privatization of Woori Financial Group will end up successful, citing the fact that the group’s eight other affiliates have so far been sold out as planned.

The disposal of Woori Bank, the last remaining step of Woori Financial Group’s privatization, has been one of the most-cherished goals for the FSC chief, who repeatedly pledged to dedicate the rest of his term to the task.

In an open-minded gesture, the FSC even said it will not restrict Kyobo Life Insurance from participating in the deal, easing down on its conventional stance.

“We have been vainly attempting to sell off (Woori Bank) since 2010 and the process may no longer be further delayed,” said Park Sang-yong, the FSC’s public funds management committee chairman.

“There is no need to exclude (Kyobo Life Insurance) from the bid, if only it would engage in a fair market competition.”

The insurance company is currently the sole bidder for Woori Bank’s package deal but financial authorities have been reluctant to hand over the state-run bank, fearing that the transaction would deliver an excessive amount of power to Kyobo Life chief Shin Chang-jae.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)

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