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Hanwha Life mulls over investment in Woori Bank

All News 17:43 September 02, 2016

SEOUL, Sept. 2 (Yonhap) -- Hanwha Life Co., South Korea's second-largest life insurer by assets, said Friday that it is considering buying a stake in state-owned Woori Bank in a move to diversify its portfolio.

"We are mulling buying a 4 percent stake worth about 300 billion won (US$268 million)," an official at Hanwha Life said on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the media.

Still, Hanwha Life said "no decision has been made" in a regulatory filing.

Hanwha Life said its board of directors is set to hold a meeting on Sept. 22, a day before the deadline set by the state-run Korea Deposit Insurance Corp. (KDIC) for submitting a letter of intent for the bank's stake by interested bidders.

The government owns a controlling 51 percent stake in Woori Bank through the KDIC, a legacy of the 1998 Asian financial crisis.

At that time, the government poured 12.8 trillion won in bailout funds into the country's third-biggest lender by assets. It has so far retrieved 8.2 trillion won, or 64.9 percent, of the taxpayers' money.

The Financial Services Commission, South Korea's financial regulator, said it aims to sell 30 percent of its stake in Woori via a bidding process, noting the bidding is open to both domestic and foreign investors and there will be no discrimination based on nationality.

In 2014, Hanwha Life tried in vain to acquire a 2 percent stake in Woori Bank as South Korea's attempt to privatize Woori Bank fell apart.

Shares of Woori Bank closed up 1.38 percent at 11,000 won on Friday, outperforming the broader KOSPI's 0.28 percent gain.


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