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Kumho Asiana heir apparent says air carrier up for sale to anyone

All Headlines 09:32 April 17, 2019

SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) -- The heir apparent of logistics-centered Kumho Asiana Group said Tuesday that the sale of its flagship unit, Asiana Airlines Inc., is open to any investors as he vowed to make his utmost effort to save the cash-strapped conglomerate.

Pressured by its creditors, Kumho Asiana on Monday decided to sell the nation's second largest air carrier to overcome its liquidity crisis. In return, the group has asked creditors, led by the state-run Korea Development Bank (KDB), to inject a fresh loan worth 500 billion won (US$439 million) to Asiana Airlines.

"We're willing to speak with any company that is sincerely looking to buy Asiana Airlines," Park Se-chang, the eldest son of former Kumho Asiana Group Chairman Park Sam-koo and current CEO of Asiana IDT Inc., told Yonhap News Agency. "It's not that only certain buyers can speak with us."

This file photo, taken on Nov. 23, 2018, shows Asiana IDT CEO Park Se-chang speaking at the Korea Exchange in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Industry observers estimate that the price tag for the full-service carrier could reach up to 2 trillion won. A slew of conglomerates, including SK and Hanhwa, have been mentioned as potential buyers, although none of them have officially announced their interest in a takeover of the airline.

Kumho Petrochemical Group also bubbled to the surface after its chairman, Park Chan-koo, a younger brother of Park Sam-koo, told local media that it may seek a "strategic alliance" with a potential buyer for Asiana Airlines.

Kumho Petrochemical Co., the group's flagship unit, is the second-largest shareholder of Asiana Airlines with an 11.98 stake.

In addition to the high price tag, potential buyers also have to deal with Asiana Airlines' worrisome financial situation. The air carrier owes financial institutions 3.2 trillion won in short-term obligations, with some 1.2 trillion won of loans maturing this year.

Lee Dong-gull, governor of the KDB, told reporters Tuesday it appears "desirable" for Kumho Asiana to sell its shares in Asiana Airlines and its subsidiaries, including no-frills carriers Air Busan and Air Seoul.

He said that the creditors plan to pump fresh liquidity into the airline before April 25, adding that it would take about six months for Kumho Asiana to complete the sale of the full-service carrier.

Last year, Asiana Airlines swung to a net loss of 10.4 billion won from a net profit of 248 billion won a year earlier due to currency-related losses and increased jet fuel costs.

This file photo, taken on April 15, 2019, shows Kumho Asiana building in Seoul. (Yonhap)

kdon@yna.co.kr
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