Korea: KEB still stuck in limbo
"This has been an issue for us for two-and-a-half years now. We have to be able to move forward but it’s difficult if we don’t know what path we’re going to take"
HSBC’s attempted takeover of Korea Exchange Bank has been in limbo for more than a year, pending regulatory approval that in turn depends on the outcome of a court case involving individuals charged with improper conduct in the Korean bank’s original sale to private equity firm Lone Star. With the initial deadline already passed, the Financial Services Commission has said it is still reviewing the case, and Korean banks have said that they too would be interested in KEB. Richard Wacker, the bank’s chief executive, is a 20-year veteran of General Electric brought in by Lone Star in February 2004 to turn the then-troubled bank around. Euromoney spoke to him in Seoul about the frustrations of the delayed deal, his plans for KEB’s future and what having HSBC as a majority shareholder could mean for his bank.