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Korea: Back to the bad old days?

Are bad habits returning to corporate Korea?

By Chris Wright

Koreans have an enthusiastic attitude to debt and Shinhan will now have 14 million credit cardholders from among their number

One of the institutions widely considered to be at the vanguard of new Korean fiscal responsibility, Shinhan Financial Group, caused jitters in the market last month after launching the country’s biggest M&A deal to take over LG Card. In August, Shinhan was named as preferred bidder for LG Card, Korea’s largest credit card issuer, with a W7.35 trillion ($7.67 billion) bid, beating Kookmin Bank’s W6.95 trillion takeover fee for Korea Exchange Bank earlier this year as Korea’s largest corporate acquisition.

The deal, which would give Shinhan an 85% stake in the company, is going through at a much higher price than the market had expected, particularly since it involves the purchase of a previously beleaguered asset now held by 14 creditors.

Standard & Poor’s was quick to put its counterparty credit ratings on Shinhan Bank on CreditWatch with negative implications, referring to a “costly acquisition” and “the relatively high premium to be paid for a controlling stake in LG Card”.

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