GS Home Shopping: Hanjin's white knight The company apparently helps the Hanjin owner family to pay inheritance tax in time

Translated by Ryu Ho-joung 공개 2019-10-28 08:00:00

이 기사는 2019년 10월 28일 08:00 더벨 유료페이지에 표출된 기사입니다.

GS Home Shopping, a TV shopping business unit of South Korea's conglomerate GS Group, acquires a partial stake in Hanjin Transportation, a logistics service arm of the country's another major conglomerate Hanjin Group, drawing attention to GS Group's intention behind the transaction.

The TV shopping company announced this week that it plans to buy a 6.87 percent stake in Hanjin Transportation, which used to be owned by Hanjin Group's late chairman Cho Yang-ho, for 25 billion won.

The company explained the purpose of the purchase was for a strategic investment to strengthen the relationship between the two firms. Indeed, the logistics service company makes deliveries of nearly 70 percent of the total orders processed by GS Home Shopping.

Some industry insiders, however, view this move as a favorable gesture by GS Home Shopping to help Hanjin Group's owner, the Cho family, to prepare funds to pay hefty inheritance tax amounting to 280 billion won.

The Cho family is expected to pay the tax in six installments over five years, meaning the first installment of about 46.7 billion won would be due by the end of October. Cash from the sale of the stake should be a great help in paying the first installment in time.

In fact, the owner's family lost nothing from the sale. Selling a small portion of the stake would hardly affect their control over Hanjin Transportation. Besides, they are able to maintain their control indirectly through Hanjin KAL, which is the largest shareholder of the company with a 22.19 percent stake.

The Cho family has rather gained GS Home Shopping as an ally to defend against the threat to their controlling power. The owner family, including Cho Won-tae, a son of the late chairman and the current chairman of Hanjin Group, needs to inherit the late chairman's majority stake in Hanjin KAL, a holding company of the group, in order to control the group's major subsidiaries, including Korean Air.

GS Home Shopping's explanation that the purchase was a strategic move is less convincing, as the business relationship between the two companies is unlikely to be adversely affected without the acquisition of a minority stake. On the other hand, the Cho family's weakened control could be a potential risk to the current friendly relationship between GS Home Shopping and Hanjin Transportation.

The Cho family is currently in a battle with the local activist hedge fund Korea Corporate Governance Improvement (KCGI) for control of the group. KCGI, the second largest shareholder of Hanjin KAL, continues increasing its stake in the group. If the owner's family failed to obtain cash to pay the tax, they may not be able to gain the upper hand in the battle.

In this light, a view that GS Home Shopping plays "white knight" for the Cho family amid a battle between the owner family and KCGI seems more convincing.

"To acquire a minority stake, which would give little influence on management decisions, even in a company currently in a battle for control could imply the intention to take sides, which means there should have been talks between GS Group and Hanjin Group prior to [this transaction]," said an industry insider.

(By reporter Go Seul-bong)
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