SEOUL, Sept. 10 (Korea Bizwire) — Dutch electronics giant Philips has expressed interest in taking over a stake in Coway, South Korea’s top water purification maker which has been put on the selling block, industry sources said Thursday.
Last month, Seoul-based private equity fund MBK Partners picked Goldman Sachs as a lead manager of the sale of its stake in Coway, estimated at 3 trillion won (US$ 2.52 billion).
MBK Partners acquired a 30.9 percent stake in Woongjin Coway in 2013 from the then cash-strapped Woongjin Group for about 1.2 trillion won. The company was later renamed Coway.
“Recently, Philips asked for detailed information on the planned stake sale and they were sent as requested,” an industry source close to the matter told the English division of Yonhap News Agency on condition of anonymity.
Philips is the latest in a slew of potential investors that have expressed interest in the Coway stake amid rumors that dozens of companies at home and abroad are reviewing their possible participation in the takeover bid.
So far, some local companies, including Hankook Tire and SK Networks, have been cited as possible bidders but experts say that there would be few Korean companies that have enough cash to take over the stake.
Hankook Tire officially denied reports recently that it is interested in buying the stake up for sale.
Reportedly, some Chinese private equity funds are keenly interested in the stake. They are cited as plausible candidates as they want to secure a foothold in the fast-growing water purification business in China by acquiring Coway.
The water purification market in China is mostly dominated by foreign brands, including Philips, which supplies Coway products there in an original equipment manufacturing (OEM) manner. The partnership comes after Coway tried in vain to enter the Chinese market in 2008.
During the first half of this year, Coway posted 160.1 billion won in net profit, with operating profit and sales reaching 210.6 billion won and 1.03 trillion won, respectively, up 12.4 percent and 1.5 percent from a year earlier.