Six or seven financial and strategic investors at home and abroad submitted preliminary offers in the first round of bidding for SK Lubricants, a subsidiary of SK Innovation, and there may be more to come after the seller decided to allow a flexible deadline.

Opening bids were accepted on Monday (November 30) and the shortlist of bidders could be announced as early as this week, with the final round expected in February 2021.

SK Innovation, which wholly owns the lubricants company, has said only that it intends to sell up to 49%, and sources said potential bidders were asked to nominate the size of the stake they want to buy, as well as other terms of the deal, along with their preliminary bids.

Deal manager Citigroup Global Markets Korea Securities kicked off the sale process about two months ago and sent out information packages to prospective buyers. SK Innovation is securing money by selling or listing shares of its subsidiaries in a bid to increase its investment in the battery business.

SK Lubricants produces base oil and finished lubricant products. It has a strong market position, especially in the global base oil market, although some potential buyers have cast doubt on the company’s long-term growth potential due to declining demand for cars with internal combustion engines.

The planned sale comes after SK Lubricants failed at three initial public offering attempts. The firm tried to list its shares on the Seoul stock exchange in 2013, 2015 and 2017, but eventually withdrew the plans due to a lower-than-expected valuation and tepid demand from investors. (Reporting by Hye-ran Kim)