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Seoul court rules in favor of Kyobo Life in legal battle with Hong Kong-based PEF

Kyobo Life Insurance headquarters building in Seoul (Kyobo Life Insurance)
Kyobo Life Insurance headquarters building in Seoul (Kyobo Life Insurance)
A Seoul court has rejected a Hong Kong-based private equity firm's request for Kyobo Life Insurance Co. to carry out its obligation with regard to a put option that it has been trying to exercise, the South Korean insurer said Tuesday.

The ruling appears to have removed a major hurdle for Kyobo Life's push to list shares on the local stock bourse in the first half of next year, according to company officials.

In October 2018, Affinity Equity Partners exercised a put option on 6 million shares in Kyobo Life at a strike price of 409,000 won ($345) apiece after the insurer failed to deliver on its promise to go public by September 2015.

Kyobo Life Insurance Chairman Shin Chang-jae refused to buy back the shares, claiming the strip prices are too high, and lodged a complaint with the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICC), which later rejected the private equity firm's request.

Affinity Equity Partners, a financial investor in Kyobo Life, asked the Seoul Northern District Court in October to order Shin to fulfill his promise with regard to the put option.

But the court rejected the request and ruled against the provisional seizure of the chairman's assets Monday, according to Kyobo Life Insurance.

A Kyobo official said the latest court ruling will help lift uncertainty over the company's push for an initial public offering (IPO) and accelerate relevant procedures down the road.

The court ruling came days after Kyobo Life applied for a preliminary approval with the local bourse operator to list its shares, with a plan to complete the overall IPO process by the first half of next year.

Kyobo Life Insurance has pushed in vain to list its shares over the past few years due to a prolonged legal battle with Affinity Equity Partners.

Kyobo Life said the company will finalize plans for the IPO size and timing in consideration of the market situations and other factors.

Launched in 1958, Kyobo Life posted a net profit of 382.9 billion won on an operating income of 15.71 trillion won last year. (Yonhap)

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