South Korea removed the last major regulatory hurdle to Lone Star Funds selling Korea Exchange Bank (004940), clearing the way for the nation’s biggest banking takeover.
The Dallas-based fund should sell at least 41 percent of its stake in the lender by May 18 because it isn’t qualified to own more than 10 percent of a South Korean bank after being convicted of stock-price manipulation, the Financial Services Commission said in a statement today.
The regulator will not dictate any conditions for the sale, allowing Seoul-based Hana Financial Group Inc. (086790) to proceed with a takeover of Korea Exchange Bank that was agreed a year ago. Lone Star is set to make more than $6 billion on its eight-year investment in the bank, which it has been trying to exit since 2006 amid conflict with prosecutors, regulators and lawmakers.
“This is the long-awaited green light for the deal and clears all the roadblocks for Lone Star and Hana,” said Heo Pil Seok, chief executive officer at Midas International Asset Management Ltd., which oversees about $4.8 billion. “Hana shares have underperformed and sealing the deal with the Lone Star will give them a boost.”
Hana Chairman Kim Seung Yu, following the regulator’s statement, said he’s feeling “great pressure” from the public to get a lower price for Korea Exchange Bank. Hana President Kim Jong Yeol said on Oct. 21 that the company planned to renegotiate the price after the regulator cleared the sale.
Return on Investment
Hana, which has fallen 18 percent this year, declined 1 percent to 35,600 won at the close of trading in Seoul before the ruling. Korea Exchange Bank, down 33 percent in 2011, dropped 1.7 percent to 7,900 won. That compares with the benchmark Kospi index’s 2 percent fall.
Lone Star has already recouped 2.53 trillion won ($2.2 billion) after-tax on its 2.15 trillion won investment in the bank, also known as KEB, through a sale of shares to institutional investors and dividends, according to data from the Seoul-based lender.
Jed Repko, a spokesman for Lone Star, was not immediately reached for comment via office phone and e-mail.
Lone Star and Hana in July extended the deadline for the sale of the fund’s entire 51 percent stake until Nov. 30, and cut the price by 6 percent to 4.4 trillion won.