Korea private equity firms interested in Asiana Airlines’ parent stake, say sources-Reuters

(Reuters) – South Korean private equity firms MBK Partners and IMM have expressed interest in buying a controlling stake in Asiana Airlines Inc‘s parent firm, sources with knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.

Builder Hoban Construction Co and a fund led by securities brokerage IBK Securities Co also said separately that they had entered letters of intent to buy 57.5 percent of construction firm Kumho Industrial Co Ltd, which had a market value of about 515 billion won ($469 million) on Wednesday.

Shinsegae Group, whose E-Mart Co Ltd unit is the largest discount store chain in South Korea, also submitted a letter of intent, Yonhap reported citing an unidentified Shinsegae official.

The stake sale would complete the debt restructuring of Kumho Industrial, which came under creditors’ control in 2010 when its parent Kumho Group ran into financial trouble after paying some 10 trillion won on acquisitions in 2006 and 2008.

MBK Partners and IMM declined comment. Shinsegae declined to confirm whether it submitted a letter of intent.

Kumho Industrial deferred comment to Korea Development Bank (KDB), its lead creditor, which confirmed it had received several letters of intent, but declined to give any details about the bidders. The sources declined to be named as the matter remained confidential.

Kumho has a 30.1 percent stake in Asiana, South Korea’s second-largest airline. Kumho shares closed 3.5 percent lower and Asiana shares ended 3.5 percent down compared to a 0.7 percent gain in the benchmark.

Once the preferred bidder is identified, Park Sam-koo, the chairman of Kumho Asiana Group and a member of the larger Kumho Group’s founding family, has right of first refusal to buy a 50 percent stake plus one share in the builder by matching the price of the preferred bid, a KDB official said.

KDB and Credit Suisse are advising the sellers on the sale.