China-based financial group Anbang has expressed interest in acquiring a stake of approximately 10% in Woori Bank. The South Korean government owns 51.06% of the bank via the Korea Deposit Insurance Corp (KDIC), and has been pushing to sell off its shares since 2010.
The SK government is looking to sell off its stake by splitting it into portions of 4% to 10% in order to withdraw the public funds invested in the bank.
Anbang has emerged as a big-time player in the mergers and acquisitions market after its US$3m acquisition of Allianz Life Insurance Korea in April, and Tongyang Life Insurance in September last year. It also purchased the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York for US$2bn, as well as several high-end resorts.
This is not the first time Anbang and Woori were linked. In 2014, Anbang launched a bid to buy a controlling stake in the bank but the deal was aborted since the other bidder, Kyobo Life Insurance, withdrew. At least two bidders were needed for the deal to push through.
The Financial Services Commission (FSC), which oversees the KDIC, is searching for a potential buyer through sales supervisor JPMorgan, but has not finalized the schedule yet. On the other hand, Anbang refused to comment, citing "company policy not to comment on unfounded market rumors."
"It is not the time to announce a selling schedule," said Yim Jong Yong, chairman of FSC. "But the situation is changing optimistically and the government has a strong will to push forward the sales."
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