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Stonebridge Capital still keen to acquire Asiana

Stonebridge Capital, one of the four bidders shortlisted to buy a controlling 31 percent stake in the country’s second-largest full-service carrier Asiana Airlines, refuted Wednesday news reports that it is not keen to proceed with the acquisition deal. 

(Stonebridge Capital)
(Stonebridge Capital)

A local news outlet reported Wednesday that the South Korean private equity fund did not participate in a bidding presentation meeting with Asiana executives earlier this week, indicating that it may drop out of the race. 

Stonebridge Capital Executive Director Park Sung-jun told The Korea Herald that the company requested the company to reschedule the bidding presentation as it needed more time to negotiate with its strategic partners.

“We have been conducting inspections and will present our bid proposal after fixing a schedule. We know that there is still some time left,” Park told The Korea Herald. 

Kumho Asiana, the parent of Asiana Airlines, plans to complete its sale -- estimated to be worth up to around 2 trillion won ($1.6 billion) -- within this year via its lead manager Credit Suisse. It plans to receive final bids in October and select a preferred bidder in November.

(Asiana Airlines)
(Asiana Airlines)

Last week, two other bidders, Aekyung Group and a consortium led by local activist fund Korea Corporate Governance Improvement presented their bid proposals. 

Market analysts consider Stonebridge Capital as the weakest candidate among the four, given its relative lack of acquisition experience and it has only invested in venture companies or small-sized enterprises. Its assets under management amount to some 1.4 trillion won. Aekyung is said to be the strongest candidate. 

Last month, the cosmetics-to-airline conglomerate confirmed it will bid for Asiana Airlines, saying it is “the only strategic investor which has 13 years of accumulated experience and know-how in operating an airline.”

AK Holdings, the holding firm of Aekyung Group, owns a 56.9 percent stake in Jeju Air, the nation’s largest low-cost carrier by sales. 

In July, Kumho Asiana Group kicked off its process to sell 31 percent stake in the airline held by its subsidiary, Kumho Industrial, together with its two budget carrier units -- Air Seoul, which is wholly owned by the airline, and 46 percent owned Air Busan -- as part of its business restructuring efforts. 

By Kim Da-sol (