South Korea's leading financial groups Shinhan Financial Group Co. and Woori Financial Holdings Co. on Thursday bid for a troubled savings bank, heralding a two-way race for the coveted lender, industry sources said.
Shinhan Financial, the country's No. 3 financial firm, submitted to the state-run Korea Deposit Insurance Corp. (KDIC) a formal bid for Tomato Savings Bank, one of the seven market players whose operations were suspended two months ago.
Woori Financial, the top banking group by assets, also handed in a bid, dropping its initial move to take over Jeil Savings Bank, another suspended lender, according to the sources.
No. 2 financial holding firm KB Financial Group Inc. decided to bid for Jeil Savings Bank instead, the sources said.
In September, South Korea's top financial regulator halted those savings banks' business for six months, citing their weak financial health and irregular practices. The move increased the number of savings banks suspended this year to 16.
Hana Financial Group Inc. is also considering joining the bidding race for Jeil, as well as keeping the possibility open for others including Prime Savings Bank.
The KDIC, which is overseeing the sale process, plans to select the prime bidder for each savings bank as early as next week, they said.