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Asiana Airlines, Air Busan, Asiana IDT face review on possible delisting

An Asiana Airlines aircraft sits at Incheon Airport. (Yonhap)
An Asiana Airlines aircraft sits at Incheon Airport. (Yonhap)
South Korea’s No. 2 carrier Asiana Airlines and its two affiliated companies face possibilities of being delisted from the nation’s main bourse Kospi, according to industry sources Friday.

The country’s bourse operator Korea Exchange announced Thursday that it has decided to examine the air carrier’s listing eligibility in line with the former Kumho Asiana Group chief’s arrest over allegedly unfair interaffiliate deals.

The KRX has made an additional decision to review Asiana Airlines’ budget carrier unit Air Busan and information and communication technology unit Asiana IDT’s listing eligibility as well.

While the three firms’ fates depend on the KRX decisions, the bourse operator is slated to complete the review within 20 trading sessions as to whether to resume their stock transactions on the Kospi market.

Park Sam-koo, former chairman of Kumho Asiana Group, was arrested in the previous month on charges of masterminding unfair financial transactions among group affiliates, which allegedly resulted in huge gains for him and his family.

Following the news breaking, the bourse operator halted trading of Asiana Airlines and its two affiliated firms from May 27 to protect the investors.

Prior to the latest trading suspension, shares of Asiana Airlines closed at 17,200 won ($15.18), with its market capitalization at 1.28 trillion won. Air Busan and Asiana IDT closed at 3,575 won and 24,350 won, respectively.

The number of minority shareholders of Asiana Airlines possessing less than a 1 percent stake came to 170,068 as of end-March.

A delisting will deal a blow to the small shareholders as they together hold about 58.21 percent of the air carrier’s shares.

“We would like to apologize to our shareholders for the prolonged stock trading suspension. ... To protect our shareholders’ ownership rights, we’ll put all our efforts into get the trading back on track,” an Asiana Airlines official said.

Meanwhile, industry insiders see a slim chance of the airline being delisted. At the same time, some predicted that the merger plan between Korean Air and Asiana Airlines is unlikely to be affected even if the second-largest carrier does get delisted.

“The acquisition contract does not include such a clause (of the deal to be suspended upon delisting). Also since the group’s former chairman stepped down from his position already, Asiana Airlines will likely resume trading soon,” an industry insider said on condition of anonymity.

By Jie Ye-eun (yeeun@heraldcorp.com)
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