The top shareholder of South Korea’s second largest airline Asiana Airlines is putting its entire stake worth around KRW 300 billion (USD $264 million).
Kumho Asiana Group – which owns a 33.47% stake (68.7 million shares) in the airline – is looking to sell its shares as the company is looking to improve its financial situation. While it has announced plans to sell the airline, no timeline or final price has been set.
"The decision was made for the sake of more than 10,000 Asiana Airlines employees," the group said in a statement. "We decided selling Asiana Airlines would be a way for the group and the carrier to regain market trust."
The decision to put its stake in Asiana up for sale follows a move to restructure the airline announced by Asiana CEO Han Chang-soo early this month which would include asset sales as well as fleet and route reductions.
Asiana Airlines is the largest company on the Kumho Group's portfolio, which also has Kumho Industrial, Kumho Buslines and Kumho Resort.
Asiana's 2018 annual operating profit dropped 88.5 percent to KRW 28.2 billion (USD $24.88 million), the airline said in a regulatory filing, from 245.6 billion won a year earlier. The airline reported a net loss of KRW 96 billion (USD $84 million) last year. The airline has been reported on outlets such as the Yonhap News Agency that it owes KRW 3.2 trillion to financial institutions and has to repay KRW 1 trillion of the total this year.
The Seoul-based airline currently operates 83 planes to 90 domestic and international destinations. Asiana currently has 49 planes on order from Airbus – 24 Airbus A350-900/1000s, and 25 A321neos which are scheduled for delivery through 2025.
According to The Korea Times, some potential suitors that have been identified include the SK Group, Hanwha Group, and the Aekyung Group (owner of South Korea's largest low cost carrier Jeju Air). As news came out of the potential sale of the carrier, shares in Asiana Airlines soared 30 percent to 7,280 won, the highest in more than three years.