Hanjin Group’s Korean Air Lines (KAL) is under growing pressure from creditors to sell its businesses to solve its cash flow issues.
Samjong KPMG, which is an accounting adviser to KAL, will soon complete valuation of the company’s individual businesses to report the results to both KAL management and creditors led by the state-run Korea Development Bank (KDB), sources said on June 8.
Among the business units speculated on as potential candidates for sale are in-flight meal services, mileage services and maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) services.
Separately Credit Suisse is also estimating the value of KAL’s assets and consulting to the company on the possible sale of them. Attracting attention is the investment bank’s role in the airline’s restructuring efforts.
The official title of the contract between the two parties does not include the word sale but “consulting,” which is at odds with typical practice.This is seemingly because of the difference between Hanjin Group and KDB, the airline’s largest creditor, in their approach to selling the airline’s assets, industry watchers said.
Hanjin Group’s senior management, including chairman Cho Won-tae, is trying to sell KAL’s assets – if they have to be sold – as quietly as possible over concerns about a negative impact on its brand image.
KAL is said to have not included options of selling its business units in a self-rescue plan submitted earlier to creditors. On the other hand, KDB is seeing that selling some of the airline’s businesses is necessary to secure sufficient liquidity.
KAL can externally rule out the possibility of selling its businesses because Credit Suisse is not officially acting as deal manager. But KDB may put pressure on the company through Credit Suisse, of which KDB is one of the key clients.
“KDB will likely press KAL to sell its businesses to potential buyers identified by Credit Suisse,” an industry insider said.
“The pace of a possible sale would depend on how much more power creditors will have as KAL is taking a cautious approach to its asset sale.”
Chances are high that creditors will have a stronger voice in the future because the restructuring plan proposed by KAL has become less practical.
Creditors are demanding that KAL raise at least 2 trillion won ($1.66 billion) of capital by the end of 2021. Interest from investors in KAL’s businesses is also high, which raises the possibility of an actual sale.
“KAL initially planned to sell its land in the central Seoul area and its stake in Wangsan Marina to avoid selling its operating businesses,” the industry insider said. “But now that it has become difficult to execute the original plan, pressure on KAL to sell its businesses is likely to mount in the future.” (Reporting by Ik-hwan Choi)