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Ssangyong Motor to speed up process of seeking new buyer

Cash-strapped automaker‘s search for new owner casts question mark over business plan

A SsangYong Motor car is being displayed a shopping mall in Melbourne, Australia. (SsangYong Motor)
A SsangYong Motor car is being displayed a shopping mall in Melbourne, Australia. (SsangYong Motor)
Troubled automaker SsangYong Motor is speeding up the process of finding a new buyer after undergoing preliminary due diligence.

The Korean arm of Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra plans on receiving acquisition proposals until mid-September from potential buyers, according to industry sources Sunday, with a preferred bidder set to be chosen based on the acquisition price and business plan.

A total of 11 investors from home and abroad have submitted letters of intent to take part in the forthcoming auction of a majority stake in SsangYong managed by Ernst & Young Han Young. They have completed preliminary due diligence.

But industry sources say the prospect of a two-way race is growing between SM Group, which is engaged in multiple businesses including construction and auto parts manufacturing, and Edison Motors, which has partnered with homegrown activist fund Korea Corporate Governance Improvement.

SM Group, which is the 38th largest company in the country, reportedly plans to fund the acquisition with some 1 trillion won ($861 million) from its own cash resources.

The Edison Motors-KCGI consortium, which also includes Keystone Private Equity and electric vehicle part maker Semisysco, is expected to raise some 800 billion won through funding from private investors as well as a paid-in capital increase.

In a recent meeting with auto part suppliers, SsangYong shared plans to develop five electric vehicle models within the next four years with its first model, the Korando e-Motion, set to hit the European market in October.

But with its management control up for sale, speculation grows that the timeline might be subject to change depending on who the new owner is.

The cash-strapped carmaker has been under court receivership since April and embarking on a court-led sales procedure as part of the company’s rehabilitation plan.

SsangYong also went into receivership back in 2009, only to exit in 2011 following Mahindra & Mahindra’s takeover.

Some 2,600 employees were laid off at that time, accounting for approximately 36 percent of its workforce.

Mahindra & Mahindra currently owns about 75 percent of the company’s shares and is seeking to sell a controlling stake, as part of its global reorganization plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a further sign of the seriousness of the situation, the automaker announced plans to sell the site of its manufacturing plant in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, as part of efforts to rescue itself. Spanning 850,000 square meters, the property is valued at 900 billion won.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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