Monday, November 2, 2009

Korea Life Insurance Plans $2B IPO In 1st Quarter -Sources

life insurance

Korea Life Insurance Co., majority owned by chemicals-to-brokerage conglomerate Hanwha Group, plans to raise at least US$2 billion in an initial public offering on the Korea Exchange in the first quarter, people familiar with the situation said Monday.

The offering is set to become South Korea's third-largest IPO and the nation's second IPO by a life insurer after Tong Yang Life Insurance Co.'s (082640.SE) US$285 million share sale last month.

Lotte Shopping Co.'s US$3.7 billion IPO in 2006 is the largest ever IPO in South Korea, according to data provider Dealogic, followed by Korea Telecom Corp.'s US$2.5 billion share sale in 1999.

Global and domestic banks pitching to handle the IPO for South Korea's second-largest life insurer by premiums were interviewed last week in a so-called beauty parade, one person said, adding the mandate will likely be given later this week.

Three to four banks will likely be bookrunners for the IPO, another person said.

Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-Youn said in September preparatory work was underway to list Korea Life Insurance. He added that Hanwha Group would sell part of its stake in the insurer to replenish capital. Hanwha owns 67% of Korea Life Insurance after buying a 16% stake from state-run Korea Deposit Insurance Corp. last year for KRW258.4 billion (US$218 million).

In April 2007, South Korea's financial regulator removed barriers and approved new rules that allowed life insurers to list on the stock market without distributing dividends to its insurance policy holders.

Another insurer, Kumho Life Insurance Co., had originally planned to list last year but aborted the plan on a sudden deterioration in market conditions triggered by the global financial crisis.

Its majority shareholder Kumho Asiana Group said Monday it will sell a 52% stake in its insurance unit for KRW400 billion (US$338 million) to Consus Asset Management Co. to improve its finances.