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Eastar to find new owner after Jeju scraps deal

All News 15:29 August 18, 2020

SEOUL, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) -- Eastar Jet Co. on Tuesday began the process to find a new owner after Jeju Air Co. scrapped its plan to acquire the smaller budget carrier amid the new coronavirus' impact on the airline industry.

Eastar Jet has selected Deloitte Anjin LLC, Yulchon LLC and Heungkuk Securities Co. as lead managers to handle the deal to sell its controlling 51.17 percent stake, Eastar Jet Senior Vice President Kim You-sang said over the phone.

"On top of the selection of lead managers, the company is in talks with two (homegrown) private equity funds to sell the majority stake to the PEFs before being placed under court receivership," he said.

Eastar faces bankruptcy after Jeju Air scrapped the deal in late July due to the rising COVID-19 pandemic-related uncertainties.

This file photo, taken July 1, 2020, shows Jeju Air and Eastar Jet's planes at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul. (Yonhap)

In response to Jeju's decision, Eastar said Jeju Air violated terms of the deal and will seek every possible measure to make Jeju take responsibility for the deal's collapse.

"There is no progress in resolving the dispute with Jeju Air," Kim said.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport demanded Eastar come up with a Plan B and said it will make efforts to avoid massive job losses. The carrier hires about 1,500 employees.

Analysts expect Eastar will go bankrupt if there are no viable investors to take over the carrier, which has suspended all flights since March.

In March, Jeju Air signed a deal to acquire the controlling stake in Eastar Jet from Eastar Holdings for 54.5 billion won (US$45.53 million) as part of its expansion strategy despite the pandemic.

The deal had been at risk of falling through despite the government's intention to support it as the two sides failed to narrow differences on terms of the contract.

On July 1, Jeju Air sent an ultimatum demanding Eastar Jet pay off all of its debts, estimated at up to 170 billion won, including unpaid wages to its employees, delayed payments to subcontractors and office operating expenses, by July 15.

But Eastar failed to meet the demands. The company said the debt payment is not part of the deal and that it is not Eastar's duty, but Jeju Air's.

AK Holdings, the holding firm of South Korean retail conglomerate Aekyung Group, holds a 56.94 percent stake in Jeju Air.

On July 23, the state-run Korea Development Bank (KDB) and the Export-Import Bank of Korea said they will withdraw their plan to extend loans worth 170 billion won to Jeju following the deal's collapse.

The state lenders were planning to inject the capital into Jeju Air to help it take over Eastar and ride out the virus crisis.

As for possible loans to Eastar, the KDB said on July 23 that it was not considering providing financial support for Eastar.

This photo taken on July 14, 2020, shows Eastar Jet's headquarters in western Seoul. (Yonhap)

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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