SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Korea Bizwire) – Lotte Confectionery Co., a unit of South Korean retail giant Lotte Group, said Wednesday that Lotte’s Japan operation will increase its stake in the affiliate, a move seen as part of efforts to cement the incumbent group chairman’s grip on the conglomerate amid a succession feud.
In a regulatory filing, Lotte Confectionery said that Tokyo-based Lotte Holdings will buy 7.9 percent of its shares at 2.3 million won (US$1,950) per share during trading hours by Dec. 28, a deal worth about 258 billion won.
Last week, Lotte Holdings bought a 2.1 percent stake in Lotte Confectionery through block deals in after-hours trading.
If the transaction is completed, Lotte Holdings’ stake in the confectionery unit will rise to 10.3 percent, making it the No. 2 stakeholder after Lotte Aluminum.
“Lotte Holdings will increase its stake in Lotte Confectionery to step up cooperation in the confectionery business for a synergy effect,” Lotte said in a release.
Stocks of Lotte Confectionery were trading at 2.25 million won on the Seoul bourse as of 10:15 a.m., up 7.3 percent from the previous session’s close.
Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin and his elder brother Dong-joo have been involved in a succession feud over the group that has a business portfolio from food to retail, mostly in South Korea and Japan.
The latest share purchase is interpreted as an effort to strengthen Dong-bin’s grip on Lotte Confectionery, which stands at a critical position in the group’s cobweb-like structure.
The confectionery unit has stakes in other key Lotte affiliates, including Lotte Shopping, Lotte Chilsung and Lotte Food, serving as a critical link in South Korea’s fifth-largest conglomerate.
Shin Dong-bin also owns an 8.8 percent stake in Lotte Confectionery, followed by Shin Kyuk-ho with 6.8 percent and Shin Dong-joo with 4 percent.
Founder Shin Kyuk-ho has sided with Dong-joo, who has brought several suits against his younger brother in Japan and Korea after being fired from his senior executive position at Lotte Holdings earlier this year.
In an interview with the Nikkei Newspaper on Tuesday, Shin Dong-bin said that Lotte Hotel will be listed on the Seoul bourse within the first half of next year and then push for an initial public offering (IPO) of Lotte’s Japan operation on the Japanese stock exchange.
“Coming under tighter scrutiny in the market enhances the company’s structure and establishes corporate governance,” he said.
The IPO of Lotte Hotel is one of the reform pledges the chairman has made to assuage public disgust after the bitter family feud shed light on its complicated shareholding structure.
A Lotte representative said earlier that the hotel unit is expected to have a market capitalization of around 10 trillion won when it is publicly traded, but market watchers say losing one of its duty-free stores in Seoul in the recent duty-free license competition could lead to the re-evaluation of its market value.