The Korea Herald


Kumho Asiana Group to buy back bus operator affiliate

By (공용)코리아헤럴드

Published : March 9, 2015 - 20:08

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Kumho Asiana Group, the parent company of South Korea's No. 2 air carrier, said Monday it has decided to take over Kumho Buslines Co., its former intercity bus transportation unit, as it tries to reshape itself into the same conglomerate it was before its liquidity crisis.
The group expressed its intent to buy the unit, but it attached a condition under which it will only buy stakes in Kumho Buslines after excluding the bus operator's 48.8 percent stake in Kumho Resort, it said in its takeover proposal to a private equity fund jointly run by IBK Securities Co. and KStone Partners.
Kumho Buslines, which the former holding group had sold off to the equity fund in 2012 for about 331 billion won (US$297.96 million), went up for sale last year after its two-year lock-up period.
Kumho Asiana Group has the right of first refusal for the acquisition of the bus operator and thus was the first to be offered the deal. Although the group had continuously emphasized its intent to buy back its previous affiliate, market watchers remained skeptical about whether it would be able to gather enough cash to complete the transaction.
The price tag of the bus transportation firm laid out by the equity fund has not been disclosed, but the number is estimated to be about 500 billion won, according to market watchers.
But the price tag is likely to go down by some 80 billion won if the value of its stake in Kumho Resort is excluded.
Kumho Asiana Group would need to make the payment within the next three months.
 Aside from the takeover at hand, the conglomerate is also juggling the acquisition of a majority stake in Kumho Industrial Co., the construction unit and de facto holding company of Kumho Asiana Group and its major affiliates.
The builder is a major shareholder of the country's second-largest flagship carrier, Asiana Airlines Inc., with a 30.08-percent stake. The takeover of the construction firm will also guarantee management control over local low-cost carrier Air Busan Co. and three other Kumho affiliates.
Park Sam-koo, the president of Kumho Asiana Group, had long been eyeing both the bus operator unit and the construction arm in his bid to reclaim the pieces of his former business group, but market watchers say the entry of other competitors have put pressure on the 70-year-old Park.
For the Kumho Industrial sale, five bidders, consisting of four private equity firms and a local midsize builder, have been shortlisted for evaluation, with prices estimated to be as much as 1 trillion won, according to market watchers. (Yonhap)