American private equity (PE) firm Apollo Global Management has joined IMM Private Equity, Korea Investment Partners in the race for a minority stake in SK Lubricants.

However, there are doubts about whether the company will finish the race, as it hasn’t struck any deals in the domestic market and has mainly been involved in buyouts.

SK Innovation reportedly intends to sell up to 49% of SK Lubricants ahead of its initial public offering. It currently holds a 100% stake in the lubricants producer. The shortlisted firms are conducting due diligence in a virtual data room and drawing up possible funding structures, industry sources said.

Apollo is a leading global alternative investment manager with assets under management of approximately $433 billion as of September 30, 2020, in credit, private equity and real assets funds. They are invested across a core group of nine industries, but the firm has built track records in foreign infrastructure assets, including India’s Welspun and the U.S.-based oil and natural gas exploration and production company Athlon Energy.

In South Korea, Apollo has been seeking investment opportunities in firms engaged in a wide range of industries, including Doosan Machine Tools and United Asset Management Company. The firm’s Hong Kong office is said to have studied SK Lubricants as a potential target, as it doesn’t have an office in South Korea.

However, industry watchers said the final round of bidding, which is expected to take place in February, is more likely to be a competition among domestic PE firms.

SK Lubricants first attempted to list on the Seoul stock exchange in 2013 but canceled because of a weak business performance. In 2015, it launched a dual-track process which could have resulted in a sale or listing, but again without any success. The company revived its listing plan in 2017 but eventually scrapped it again due to tepid demand from institutional investors. (Reporting by Ar-rum Rho)