The Korea Herald


Tycoon Park at crossroads on fate of Kumho Asiana Group

By Korea Herald

Published : Feb. 23, 2015 - 19:35

    • Link copied

Kumho Asiana Group chairman Park Sam-koo faces a make-or-break decision to realize his plan to rebuild his empire with the largest shareholder of Kumho Express proposing a final takeover offer for the bus unit on Monday.

IBK Securities-Keistone Partners, which holds a 100 percent stake in Kumho Express, proposed a final offer for the acquisition deal to Kumho Asiana Group, which previously owned the bus unit. The group has to decide whether it will buy the company for the proposed price in two weeks. 

Kumho Asiana Group chairman Park Sam-koo speaks at a Korea-Japan forum in Seoul last month. (Yonhap) Kumho Asiana Group chairman Park Sam-koo speaks at a Korea-Japan forum in Seoul last month. (Yonhap)

“The decision on acquisition will be made by March 9 after examining the suggested takeover offer,” a Kumho Asiana Group official said.

He said the group’s plan to retake Kumho Express and Kumho Industrial ― the de facto holding company of the group ― has not changed despite speculation that the chairman is short of funds to buy out the two companies.

According to sources familiar with the deal, the IBK fund has asked the group to pay about 500 billion won ($450 million) to repurchase the transport firm. The price estimate was based on the company’s profit-making ability and potential value.

In 2012, Kumho Asiana group sold the bus unit to IBK Securities-Keistone Partners for 330 billion won to weather a worsening liquidity crunch.

Kumho Express is the forerunner of Kumho Asiana Group, which has expanded to an airline, tire production, a cultural foundation, an academy and others.

The group’s chairman Park Sam-koo has shown a strong will to retake Kumho Express since it is perceived as being symbolic for the transport conglomerate. However, the group allegedly hopes to take over Kumho Express for 200 billion won, less than half the price offer.

Although the rights of preemption give Park a better chance of acquiring the firm, industry watchers have expressed doubts about whether the chairman has enough cash to retake the company after injecting funds into the group’s flagship units ― Kumho Tire and Kumho Industrial ― to save them amid a workout crisis in 2012.

If Kumho Asiana Group gives up on its preemptive rights and rejects the offer in two weeks, IBK fund will carry out an open bid process or private contract to find a new owner. But the group could have another chance to buy the transport company if the IBK fund fails to sell it through the open bid.

Along with the bus unit, chairman Park has been on the lookout for an opportunity to take back control of Kumho Industrial, which owns key affiliates of Kumho Asiana Group, including the country’s second-biggest air carrier Asiana Airlines. The builder holds a 30.1 percent stake in the carrier.

Creditors of Kumho Industrial notified major conglomerates and financial investors on Jan. 15 about the selloff of their 57.5 percent stake in the company, after a debt workout program was completed last month.

By Park Han-na (