SK Lubricants up for sale again

SK Lubricants Co Ltd, the lubricant oil business arm of South Korea’s conglomerate SK Group, is up for sale again after a failed attempt five years ago.

The group has hired Citigroup Global Markets Korea Securities to lead the sale process which is at a very early stage, industry sources said. SK Innovation Co Ltd, another affiliate of the group, currently holds a 100% stake in the lubricants producer.

The move comes five years after SK Group canceled plans to sell SK Lubricants to private equity firm MBK Partners. In 2015, the conglomerate, which wanted to improve the financial position of SK Innovation, planned to sell or list the lubricants business. It chose to sell and entered into negotiations with MBK Partners but ultimately scrapped the deal after failing to reach an agreement on the price.

The group subsequently attempted to list the business on the local exchange in 2017. However, its initial public offering application was eventually withdrawn the following year because of a weaker-than-expected demand from institutional investors during the book-building process.

The sale would be one of the largest deals in the domestic mergers and acquisitions market where few big deals have been announced recently. When the group was in talks with MBK Partners five years ago, the value of 100% ownership interests in SK Lubricants was estimated at about 2.5 trillion won ($2.1 billion). Large private equity firms with deep pockets could express interest in the company given its strong market position and its ability to generate cash flows, industry watchers said.

SK Lubricants recorded revenue of 3.37 trillion won and operating income of 290 billion won on a consolidated basis for 2019. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization were at around 430 billion won in the same period. (Reporting by Hee-yeon Han)