Three Chinese companies would be pitting against Kumho Asian Group Chairman Park Sam-koo over the controlling stake in Kumho Tire Co., South Korea’s second largest tire company.
According to sources from the investment banking industry on Thursday, three Chinese firms Shanghai Aerospace Industry Co. (SAIC), Jiangsu GPRO Group Co. and Qingdao Doublestar Tire Industrial Co. have joined the final auction to acquire a 42.01 percent stake in Kumho Tire owned by its main creditors including Woori Bank, Korea Development Bank and KB Kookmin Bank. China’s Linglong Tire Co. and India’s Apollo Tyres Ltd. that submitted letters of intent did not see through the race, according to the sources.
The new owner of the tire maker will be picked among the three Chinese bidders and Kumho Asiana Group Chairman Park Sam-koo who holds the right of first refusal that allows him to buy the stakes under the same term as the preferred bidder. The creditors plan to select the preferred bidder around early next week and sign sales and purchase agreement (SPA) immediately. Then, they will notify the final price and terms of the sales deal to Park.
The heated race upsets Park’s ambition to redeem the company his father Park In-chon founded to build Kumho empire as it has pushed up the sale price to more than 1 trillion won ($847 million).
SAIC, fully owned by China’s state-run China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), has emerged as the strongest contender by offering the highest bid of around 1 trillion won in the preliminary auction held in November last year.
The industry sources believe that SAIC would have offered the similar price in the main bid. SAIC’s parent company CASC, the largest aerospace company in china, is ranked 344th in the list of the world’s top 500 companies selected by Fortune magazine with assets reaching $55 billion.
Another two competitors from China have also carefully prepared for the action after submitting their preliminary bids. Doublestar Tire formed a private equity fund worth 1.7 trillion won for the acquisition. The Nanjing-based GPRO, China’s chemical company that mainly manufactures synthetic rubber, propylene and polypropylene, expects that the takeover could create a synergy effect by combining its chemical business and Kumho’s tire business.
“The three bidders are all eager and financially-capable of acquiring Kumho Tire,” said a source from the investment banking industry. “The question is whether Park can match their price offer,” he added.
Park in a recent interview with the Maeil Buiness Newspaper reiterated strong will to redeem Kumho Tire saying “If there is a will, there is a way.” He plans to set up a special purpose vehicle and recruit financial investors to help out in financing. But industry watchers are doubtful as Park has already spent more than 700 billion won to recover Kumho Industrial Co. in 2015. He cannot seek funding support from group’s affiliates as the right of first refusal is confined to Park and his eldest son Park Se-chang, president of the group in charge of strategic management. Expansion through acquisition of bankrupt Daewoo companies following the 1997 financial crisis has dented the balance sheet of Kumho Asiana forcing Park to relinquish management right and sell assets under creditors-led workout program in the wake of 2007-2008 financial crisis.