MBK Partners In Talks for KEB Stake

(Reuters) – Private equity house MBK Partners is in the early stages of talks to make a possible bid for Lone Star’s 51 percent stake in Korea Exchange Bank (KEB) (004940.KS), valued at around $3.6 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The newspaper’s online edition on Friday cited an unidentified source familiar with the situation, but it did not give details on whether MBK might go alone with the bid or find a strategic investor in what would be South Korea‘s biggest banking deal this year.

MBK was not immediately available for comment.

U.S. private equity firm Lone Star [LS.UL] bought a majority stake in KEB for $1.2 billion in 2003, and relaunched its sale attempt for the third time early this year after failing twice earlier.

Australian and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ.AX), Australia’s No. 4 lender, has been preparing to bid for South Korea’s sixth-largest bank, and hired Goldman Sachs JBWere and JP Morgan (JPM.N) as advisers, sources say.

Local banking groups — KB Financial Group (105560.KS) and Hana Financial Group (086790.KS) — have remained lukewarm on the KEB sale process, waiting for the government to outline its divestment plan on Woori Finance Holdings (053000.KS) expected this month.

(Reporting by Kim Yeon-hee; Editing by Sugita Katyal)