KAL may sell its in-flight catering unit The unit likely to be the first up for sale as part of the air carrier's restructuring efforts

Translated by Ryu Ho-joung 공개 2020-05-19 08:00:50

이 기사는 2020년 05월 19일 08:00 더벨 유료페이지에 표출된 기사입니다.

Korean Air Lines (KAL) has begun to internally estimate the value of its business units to hive off some of them in an effort to restructure the company.

KAL, the country’s largest airline and the holding company of Hanjin Group, is in the process of estimating the value of its business units – including in-flight meal services, mileage services and maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) services – sources familiar with the situation said on May 15. The conglomerate’s internal staff working on the valuation will assess the enterprise value of each unit under the assumption that it is split off from the company.

The results are expected to be soon reported to management, including Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Won-tae, who will then likely make a decision before the end of July on which business units to be sold by the air carrier. The state-run Korea Development Bank, one of the key financiers of KAL, has continued to put pressure on the company to sell its non-core assets as part of efforts to tackle liquidity problems.

The in-flight meal service operation, among other business units, will likely be the first to be put up for sale by KAL, industry watchers said. The conglomerate’s management is said to have tentatively put the unit’s valuation at multi-hundred billion won.

Previously, Asiana Airlines, the country’s second-biggest carrier, raised 160 billion won ($129.7 million) from Chinese Hainan Airlines, reportedly on condition that the two airline companies set up a joint venture, GateGourmet Korea, which started providing in-flight meals to Asiana in 2018. Hainan’s parent HNA acquired Gategroup, which operates the Gategourmet brand, back in 2016 before it sold its entire stake in the Swiss company in 2019.

KAL’s in-flight catering services are estimated to have generated revenue of roughly 100 billion won for 2019, according to market analysts. It is widely expected that the previous deal between Asiana and Hainan may be used as a reference case, which could be a factor that speed up a possible sale of KAL’s in-flight catering unit. The unit reportedly generates operating income margin of 30 percent, which also could attract private equity firms.

“Revenue from in-flight catering services is directly linked to the number of international flights,” said an industry insider. “Chances are high that the in-flight catering unit could generate profit once the current coronavirus-related lockdowns are lifted.”

Meanwhile, it is likely that the mileage service unit will take a backseat in KAL’s restructuring efforts, as global airlines recently tend to internally operate their mileage businesses to use customer data. Instead of selling it, the company could explore other options, such as raising funds through an initial public offering after separating the unit, industry watchers said.

(Reporting by Ik-hwan Choi)
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