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Korean PEF inches closer to KDB Life acquisition

Headquarteres of KDB Life Insurance in Seoul. (KDB Life Insurance)
Headquarteres of KDB Life Insurance in Seoul. (KDB Life Insurance)
Korean private equity firm JC Partners has become a preferred bidder to buy a controlling stake in KDB Life Insurance, in policy lender Korea Development Bank’s move to exit from a troubled financial institution that has strived to turn around amid restructuring.

JC Partners was the sole participant in the open bidding process to sell KDB Life Insurance, whose 92.73 percent stake is jointly controlled by KDB and investment house Consus Private Equity, according to KDB on Wednesday. The bidding for the deal worth 550 billion won ($456.73 million) wrapped up Monday.

This comes after JC Partners, led by Chief Executive Lee Jong-chul who helmed Orix Private Equity Korea, took over MG Non-Life Insurance in April with the authorities’ approval.

KDB vowed to speed up the process to close the sales process, such as inviting more investors to the deal and signing a binding agreement on the transaction. Through the deal, JC Partners is expected to acquire existing shares and new shares by teaming up with multiple institutional investors. One of the investors is Woori Bank, whose investing committee approved plans to invest in JC Partners’ vehicle on Friday.

“(The shareholder) has gauged the bidder’s eligibility and deal closing probability,” said KDB, which controls the firm via a vehicle called KDB-Consus Value private equity fund.

The news heralds an end to KDB’s restructuring process of what was formerly known as Kumho Life Insurance, in its fourth attempt to sell, following previous efforts in 2010, 2014 and 2016.

Buying the ailing insurer for 650 billion won, KDB has so far injected over 1 trillion won in public funds to salvage the company.

KDB Life Insurance is the nation’s 12th-largest life insurance company by premium income as of end-2019. It recorded a net profit of 34.47 billion won in 2019, a turnaround from a net loss of 1.1 billion won the previous year.

By Son Ji-hyoung (