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Government to sell Woori Bank to group investors

The financial authority decided to sell its dominant stake in Woori Bank to a group of investors, scrapping its earlier stance to find a single bidder.

The number of investors is expected to be set at between three and 10 on the basis of a split-based holding among a group of oligopolistic stakeholders, according to the Public Fund Oversight Committee.

The PFOC, an arm of the Financial Services Commission, Tuesday unveiled its revised method to sell the state-controlled bank. This marked the fifth official attempt since 2010.

The government holds a 51.04 percent stake in Woori Bank, its sale target is 48.07 percent, allowing for some current investors’ call option rights to 2.97 percent of the bank.

Of the 48.07 percent to be sold, the PFOC said it would initially push to sell a 30 to 40 percent stake in the bank to a group of different bidders. The government plans to hold the remaining 8.07 to 18.07 percent stake and later dispose of it according to future market situations.

The sale plan eventually features a fast handover of the 30-40 percent stake as the first step, said committee chairman Park Sang-yong.

“One investor out of the potential group of bidders will be allowed to purchase the stake within the range of 4 percent at minimum and 10 percent at maximum,” Park told a news briefing.

This indicates that the number of main investors will range from three to 10..

Saying that Woori Bank is undervalued in its stock price, Park pledged to raise its corporate value by reinforcing control of insolvent loans and revamping its internal corporate structure. After peaking at 11,200 won ($9.70) on May 4, its price has fallen, closing at 9,040 won Tuesday.

Should it aim to retrieve the principal of taxpayers’ money without a loss, the authority should sell the state’s stake in the nation’s second-largest bank for at least 13,500 won per share. The government injected 12.7 trillion won in public funds into its former parent Woori Financial Group in the wake of the 1997 Asian currency crisis.

Park also said that the government would not intervene in the bank’s management after the sale process is completed.

The committee, however, has yet to set the timetable as to when it would put Woori up for auction.

Woori Bank has six subsidiaries and affiliated firms including Woori Card and Woori America Bank.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)
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