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Privatization of Woori Financial back on track

Government aims to complete sale of its share in Woori within the year

Two men stand by a Woori Bank ATM. (Yonhap)
Two men stand by a Woori Bank ATM. (Yonhap)

The government said Thursday it will open a bidding process to sell a part of its stake in Woori Financial Holdings, owned by the Korea Deposit Insurance Corporation, to multiple buyers in a bid to complete privatization of the banking giant.

The state-run deposit insurer will put a 10 percent stake out of the 15.13 percent stake it holds in Woori Financial Holdings through competitive bidding, according to Financial Services Commission. Prospective buyers can bid for between 1 percent and 10 percent of the shares on sale, with their current ownership in Woori stake not being counted.

As an incentive, the winning bidder who acquires more than 4 percent will be granted a right to recommend an external board director.

The bidding will proceed in a competitive auction scheme through which the shares will be sold to the highest bidders with prices exceeding the amount to be suggested by the FSC‘s public funds oversight committee, which handles state asset sales.

The probable price of the sale will be set by the committee before the closure of the bidding process by taking into account the banking group’s share price and company value, among others.

As of 2 p.m., shares of Woori Financial Holdings were trading at 10,900 won ($9.31) with a market cap standing at 7.9 trillion won.

The stake sale comes after the KDIC sold a 2 percent stake in Woori Financial Holdings in April as part of efforts to recoup taxpayer money injected into the company. The stake, or 14.5 million shares, was offloaded through a block sale in pre-market trading for 149.3 billion won.

Following public notice of the sale on Thursday, the government will accept letters of intent until Oct. 8.

The closing of bidding process and selection of winning bidders are set to be complete by the end of November with a goal to close the deal by year’s end.

The FSC said the deal will bring the recovery of public funds and contribute to further development of the financial industry.

“The completion of privatization will help Woori Financial Holdings accelerating shareholder-centric management and will gain upside momentum in the stock market,” the FSC said.

The government poured a total of 12.8 trillion won into Woori Finance, which was turned into Woori Financial in early 2019, to keep it afloat in the aftermath of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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