WHOLESALE BANKING | Cesar Tordesillas, Korea

Korea to attempt Woori sale for the 3rd time

The South Korean government is attempting for the third time to unload its holding Woori Finance Holdings.


South Korea abandoned an attempt to sell the stake in August after receiving only one bid, led by South Korean private-equity firm MBK Partners Ltd. It canceled the first auction in December 2010.

It set a July 27 deadline for potential buyers to offer for a minimum 30 percent stake, says the Public Fund Oversight Committee.

That would cost at least $2.6 billion based on the company’s market value as of April 27, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, who had pledged to sell state-owned assets and consolidate the nation’s banks, has been unable to lure investors to Woori since the initial attempt in 2010. The government is betting on a rally in global equity markets this year and a legal change that will ease suitors’ cash-payment requirements.

We’ve seen meaningful changes in the financial-industry environment in the past year and concluded that we can resume our sale efforts,” said the committee’s secretary-general, Kim Yongbeom. He expects a preferred bidder to be selected in October.

Woori won’t be broken up into separate businesses for the sale, according to the statement.

“It’s hard to see how the sale environment has changed since the two failures,” said Lee Young Seog, a fund manager at Seoul-based Korea Investment Management Co., which oversees the equivalent of about $22 billion. “The government has a strong will toward privatization, but there aren’t many in the market who can afford such a big purchase.”

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