Four of South Korea's business groups have been named as bidders for the majority stake in Asiana Airlines – the country's second largest carrier.

According to a report by the Yonhap News Agency, the Aekyung Group, a consortium formed by Hyundai Development Co. and Mirae Asset Daewoo, another consortium led by local activist fund Korea Corporate Governance Improvement (KCGI) and a Stone Bridge Capital-led consortium were named on a shortlist to acquire the controlling stake in the airline which has recently went through financial difficulties.

The four groups were named as qualified bidders after an initial five bids were placed for the airline. Each of the companies named are eyeing the 31% majority stake which the Kumho Asiana Group is looking to sell as part of moves to restructure the company.

Worth an estimated KRW 379 billion (US$318 million), the stake sale will also include the Kumho Group affiliates including two budget airlines the group maintains a majority stake – Air Busan and Air Seoul. Air Seoul is a 100% owned subsidiary while Asiana owns a 46% stake in Air Busan.

Among the most prominent groups eying the stake in Asiana is the Aekyung Group which is under the holdings firm AK Holdings. AK Holdings owns a 56.9% stake in Jeju Air – the largest low cost airline in South Korea by sales.

In a statement, the Aekyung Group cited their experience in the airline industry saying: “(The group is) the only strategic investor which has 13 years of accumulated experience and know-how in operating an airline.” It added: “We are in talks with multiple highly credible financial investors for a partnership in the Asiana auction.”

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