Nobody knows better than South Korea how elusive the floor can be when markets are crying fire-sale. Pushed to the wall during the Asia Crisis a decade ago, the country’s banks had their assets priced in the pennies-on-the-dollar range. Here now, with the shoe squarely on the other foot, is Korea Asset Management, a government debt clearer that says its purchase of illiquid Merrill Lynch debt securities is faltering over price. Local media reported in July that Kamco planned to raise up to 2 trillion won ($1.98 billion) to buy U.S. non-performing loans with Shinhan Bank and Mirae Asset Securities. Kamco had said it was in the process of raising about $1 billion to buy distressed mortgage assets from U.S. banks and expected double-digit returns from its investments. Hardly the kind of buying clout that Merrill faced when it agreed to sell $30.6 billion of collateralized debt obligations to a Lone Star affiliate in July for 22 cents on the dollar. If nothing else, execs at Lehman Brothers will be watching this high-stakes haggling with much nervous interest as they negotiate with another South Korean state-owned institution, Korea Development Bank, over a possible joint investment in the CDO-laden U.S. investment bank.
Other deals of the day:
* Novolipetsk Steel, the Russian steel maker owned by billionaire Vladimir Lisin, has agreed to pay $400 million in cash to acquire U.S. hot-rolled steel maker Beta Steel and expand its presence in North America.
* InBev is to hold an extraordinary shareholders meeting on Sept. 29 to vote on its planned $52 billion takeover of Anheuser Busch and related matters.
* Private equity firm Advent International has taken a majority stake in Swiss duty-free retailer Dufry by means of a share swap that combines it with the U.S. firm’s airport retailer Hudson. Dufry, which already held an 11.2 percent stake in Hudson that it bought in April, said it was swapping Hudson’s common stock for Dufry equity and refinancing its approximately $390 million in debt. The total value of Hudson’s equity is $446 million.