Connect to share and comment

Regulator mulls package sale of Woori Finance's main bank, card units


SEOUL, June 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's financial watchdog is considering selling Woori Finance Holdings Co.'s flagship banking unit and non-core affiliates in a lump sum as part of its move to privatize the state-invested banking group, a source said Thursday.

The Financial Services Commission (FSC) plans to unveil detailed plans next week to resume the sale of South Korea's top banking group by assets, a move aimed at recouping tax payers' money.

FSC Chairman Shin Je-yoon said last week that the regulator is considering first selling the group's two smaller banks -- Kwangju and Kyongnam -- and then selling a slimmed-down holding company, along with the main banking unit Woori Bank.

"We are studying plans to sell Woori Bank and the group's non-core affiliates including the card unit in package," the source said.

The government currently holds a 56.97 percent stake in Woori Finance after it injected 12.8 trillion won (US$11.32 billion) to save the group from near bankruptcy in the aftermath of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

The sale of Woori Finance was pushed by the government of former President Lee Myung-bak, but the privatization move fell through in 2010 and 2011 due to a lack of proper buyers.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency, Lee Soon-woo, new chairman of Woori Finance, remained cautious about commenting on his view about the privatization process as the government is poised to lay out the detailed plan next week.

But Lee said he was supportive of the government's planned separate sale of the group's two regional smaller banks as their operations overlap those of Woori Bank's branches in those regions.

No. 2 banking group KB Financial Group previously had an interest in merging with Woori Finance, but decided to pull out of its bid in July 2012 apparently due to political pressure.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>