S.Korea scrutinises bank M&A financing practices

July 2, 2009

Daewoo Centre Building, former Daewoo Group headquarters, which is being remodeled by Daewoo Engineering & Construction, is seen in Seoul June 29, 2009. South Korea's Kumho Asiana Group said it had decided to put Daewoo Engineering & Construction up for a sale to ease investors worries about its liquidity.   REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won (SOUTH KOREA BUSINESS)    SEOUL, July 2 (Reuters) – South Korea has started looking into banks’ practice of participating in mergers and acquisitions deals as financial investors, an official said on Thursday, signalling a possible measure to limit M&A financing.
   The move comes as South Korea’s Kumho Asiana Group faces liquidity problems after buying Daewoo Engineering & Construction <047040.KS> together with financial sponsors for 6.4 trillion won ($5 billion) in 2006.
   With the December deadline to buy back Daewoo shares from financial investors in a “put-back option” looming, Kumho on Sunday announced a plan to sell the country’s No.3 builder. [ID:nSEO340774]
   “Put-back options could hurt the buyers’ balance sheets, and in turn hurt their creditor banks, too,” said an official of the Financial Services Commission (FSC), the financial watchdog. The official asked not to be named before thw watchdog completes its scrutiny.
   “We are looking into the matter from a broader perspective: how to monitor companies’ asset quality before they worsen and how to get creditor banks to notice risk factors in M&A deals.”
   Kumho had provided the right to financial investors, including Mirae Asset and domestic banks, to sell back Daewoo shares at 31,500 won per share around the end of this year. The price is more than double Thursday’s closing price of 12,850 won.
   FSC Chairman Chin Dong-soo said in parliament on Wednesday that “put-back options” could cause problems, and the watchdog would review the issue.
   The FSC official said measures the government agency was considering included raising banks’ voice in the activities of large business groups as creditors, which has weakened since conglomerates increased bond sales for fund-raising about a decade ago. ($1=1267.4 Won)

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