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Hyundai prepares for financial restructuring in attempt to ease debt

SEOUL--South Korea's Hyundai group has announced a restructuring plan to sell off financial units for more than US$3 billion in an effort to reduce its debt and focus on shipping, logistics and elevator-machinery businesses.

The firm has put up for sale Hyundai Securities, Hyundai Asset Management and Hyundai Savings Bank as well as other assets including a luxury hotel.

The group said in a statement published on Sunday that the sale would help it raise up to 3.3 trillion won (US$3.1 billion) and improve its liquidity.

It promised to concentrate its resources on three main businesses — Hyundai Merchant Marine, Hyundai Elevator and Hyundai Logistics.

The debt ratio for the three main units stood at 493 percent in the third quarter of this year. The group plans to lower that to about 200 percent.

Hyundai Merchant will borrow money overseas, while Hyundai Elevator will float new shares and Hyundai Logistics will be listed on the Seoul stock exchange.

In the wake of the 1997-98 economic crisis, Hyundai Group became a minor conglomerate after it spun off its lucrative auto-making unit, Hyundai Motor. Hyundai Engineering and Construction also left the group and came under creditors' control in 2001 as part of a bailout package.

Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world's largest shipbuilder, had been spun off earlier.

The Hyundai group has been in trouble since former chairman Chung Mong-Hun committed suicide in 2003.

It controls Hyundai Asean, which used to operate tours to a scenic North Korean resort before it was shut down in 2008 when a South Korea female tourist was shot dead.

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