Kumho Asiana Group, a South Korean airline-to-petrochemical conglomerate, on Thursday began the process of selling its airline unit with the aim to complete it this year.
The group put its construction affiliate Kumho Industrial Co.'s entire 33.5 percent stake in Asiana Airlines up for sale to secure liquidity as the group faces a cash crunch.
In a public bidding notice, Credit Suisse, the deal's adviser, said it will send a prospectus to potential investors who have disclosed their intention to join the bid.
The airline stake up for sale is valued at 448 billion won ($380 million) based on Wednesday's closing price of 6,520 won.
If the management premium is added, the acquisition price reportedly could fetch up to 2.5 trillion won ($2.1 billion).
Asiana shares had fallen 4.6 percent to 6,230 won as of 10:35 a.m., underperforming the broader KOSPI's 0.7 percent loss.
Conglomerates such as SK Group, CJ Group, GS Group, Hanwha Group and Aekyung Holdings, Inc., as well as private equity funds, have been mentioned as potential bidders for the country's second-biggest full-service carrier after Korean Air Lines Co., though they have denied the rumors or said they will look at the deal.
Asked if they planned to join the bid, Aekyung said it has "an interest" in the deal and GS said no decision has been made yet.
Aekyung owns a 57 percent stake in low-cost carrier unit Jeju Air Co.
But SK, CJ, Hanwha said they have no interest in the auction.
Korean private equity firm MBK Partners declined to comment.
In 2018, Asiana Airlines and its main creditor, the state-run Korea Development Bank (KDB), signed a deal that required the carrier to secure liquidity through sales of assets and other means.
The KDB-led creditors and Kumho Industrial have said they are planning to sell Asiana Airlines together with its two budget carrier units -- Air Seoul Inc., which is wholly owned by the airline, and 46 percent owned Air Busan Co.
But they left the room for the possibility that Asiana and the two low-cost carriers could be sold separately if such a request arises during the bidding process.
Last year, the airline swung to a net loss of 10.4 billion won from a net profit of 248 billion won a year earlier due to currency-related losses and increased jet fuel costs.
Currently, it owes financial institutions a total of 2.7 trillion won in short-term obligations, with 660 billion won of loans maturing this year. (Yonhap)