South Korea may sign GM Korea funding deal by April 27

General Motors employees work at an assembly line of the company’s Bupyeong plant in Incheon. GM shocked South Korea in February with plans to close one local plant and leaving the fate of three others unclear. (Reuters)
Updated 17 April 2018
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South Korea may sign GM Korea funding deal by April 27

  • GM proposed in February an investment of $2.8 billion into its money-losing South Korean operations over 10 years
  • GM Korea and its union plan to hold another round of talks on a restructuring deal on Wednesday morning

SEOUL: Korea Development Bank (KDB) may sign a preliminary agreement by April 27 to financially support General Motors Co’s troubled South Korean unit, provided interim due-diligence on the unit is satisfactory, the chairman of the state-run lender said on Tuesday.
GM proposed in February an investment of $2.8 billion into its money-losing South Korean operations over 10 years, days after announcing a sweeping restructuring. It has asked Seoul to provide a share of the funds for the overhaul.
The US automaker owns 77 percent of its South Korean unit, GM Korea, while KDB owns 17 percent. GM’s main Chinese partner, SAIC Motor Corp. Ltd, controls the remaining 6.0 percent.
Lee Dong-gull, chairman and CEO of KDB, told Reuters the bank may offer around 500 billion won ($468.42 million), proportional to its 17 percent stake in GM Korea, to help fund GM’s pledged $2.8 billion investment.
This is the first time KDB has offered a time-frame for a decision of whether to financially back GM Korea. The bank and government officials have so far been non-committal.
GM’s president told Reuters last week that common ground must be reached on a long-term restructuring of GM Korea by this Friday, and if there was none, the operation would likely seek bankruptcy protection.
GM shocked South Korea in February with plans to close one local plant and leaving the fate of three others unclear. It is seeking government funding and incentives as well as labor cost cuts to save the unit, which in 2017 posted a net loss of $1.1 billion, its fourth straight year in the red.
“If GM injects equity into the unit, we will inject equity. If GM extends loans to the unit, we will extend loans as well,” Lee said, adding KDB prefers to take part in a rights offering rather than lending to the unit.
“We may be able to reach a very meaningful agreement by April 27, whether it is a verbal promise or conditional MOU,” he said, referring to a memorandum of understanding (MOU).
The KDB chairman said its interim due diligence report on GM Korea is scheduled to be out on Friday, but GM Korea has not so far submitted sufficient documents for South Korea to assess its financial viability.
He said the bank would be able to sign a legally binding deal with the US automaker only after a final report is out in late April or early May.
“We are in continued discussions with the KDB and the government with intent to inject new funds and convert debt into equity,” a GM Korea spokesman said.
Lee said KDB would have no choice but to consider taking “appropriate legal action” should the US automaker opt to liquidate its South Korean unit without consulting the bank.
Lee said GM should offer a long-term commitment to South Korea to get government support and recover public trust.
He said many South Koreans believe that GM may eventually leave South Korea when government subsidies dry up, as the US automaker did in Australia and Europe.
“They have to show a commitment to remaining as a good corporate citizen,” Lee said.
“What GM really needs to know is that anti-GM sentiment is very strong in South Korea. I told GM that they need to make me feel comfortable before I can make some kind of decisions.”
Lee had a series of meetings with Barry Engle, head of GM’s international operations, who visited South Korea to discuss a restructuring plan with the government and the GM Korea union.
GM Korea and its union plan to hold another round of talks on a restructuring deal on Wednesday morning, a union spokesman said on Tuesday. “We are trying to resolve the problem with a dialogue,” he said.
GM Korea was one of GM’s major manufacturing and engineering bases in Asia after its 2002 purchase of failed South Korean car maker Daewoo Motors. But the unit has struggled in recent years since GM pulled its Chevy brand from Europe, hitting exports to GM Korea’s major market.
“The mutual trust hit rock bottom. We have to enhance trust and this will not happen overnight,” Lee said.


Gulf companies challenged by debt and rising interest rates

Updated 22 April 2018
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Gulf companies challenged by debt and rising interest rates

  • Debt restructurings on the rise, but below crisis levels
  • Central Bank of the UAE has raised interest rates four times since last March

There has been an uptick in recent months in heavily-borrowed companies in the Gulf seeking to restructure their debts with lenders. Although the pressure on companies is not comparable to levels witnessed in the region following the 2008 global financial crisis, rising interest rates will eventually begin to have a greater impact, say experts.
Speaking exclusively to Arab news, Matthew Wilde, a partner at consultancy PwC in Dubai, said: “We do expect that interest rate increases will gradually start to impact companies over the next 12 months, but to date the impact of hedging and the runoff of older fixed rate deals has meant the impact is fairly muted so far.”
The Central Bank of the UAE has raised interest rates four times since the start of last year, in line with action taken by the US Federal Reserve. The Fed has signalled that it will raise interest rates at least twice more before the end of the year.
Wilde added that there had been a little more pressure on company balance sheets of late, although “this shouldn’t be overplayed”.
Nevertheless, just last week, Stanford Marine Group — majority owned by a fund managed by private equity firm Abraaj Group — was reported by the New York Times to be in talks with banks to restructure a $325 million Islamic loan. The newspaper cited a Reuters report that relied on “banking sources”.
The Dubai-based oil and gas services firm, which has struggled as a result of the downturn in the hydrocarbons market since 2014, has reportedly asked banks to consider extending the maturity of its debt and restructuring repayments, after it breached certain loan covenants.
A fund managed by Abraaj owns 51 percent of Stanford Marine, with the remaining stake held by Abu Dhabi-based investment firm Waha Capital. Abraaj declined to comment.

 

Dubai-based theme parks operator DXB Entertainments struck a deal last month with creditors to restructure 4.2 billion dirhams ($1.1 billion) of borrowings, with visitor numbers to attractions such as Legoland Dubai and Bollywood Parks Dubai struggling to meet visitor targets.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Sharjah-based Gulf General Investment Company was in talks with banks to restructure loan and credit facilities after defaulting on a payment linked to 2.1 billion dirhams of debt at the end of last year.
Dubai International Capital, according to a Bloomberg report from December, has restructured its debt for the second time, reaching an agreement with banks to roll over a loan of about $1 billion. At the height of the emirate’s boom years, DIC amassed assets worth about $13 billion, including the owner of London’s Madame Tussauds waxworks museum, as well as stakes in Sony and Daimler. The firm was later forced to sell most of these assets and reschedule $2.5 billion of debt after the global financial crisis.
Wilde told Arab News: “We have seen an increasing number of listed companies restructuring or planning to restructure their capital recently — including using tools such as capital reductions and raising capital by using quasi equity instruments such as perpetual bonds.”
This has happened across the region and PwC expected this to accelerate a little as companies “respond to legislative pressures and become more familiar with the options available to fix their problems,” said Wilde.
He added that the trend was being driven by oil prices remaining below historical highs, soft economic conditions, and continued caution in the UAE’s banking sector.
On the debt restructuring side, Wilde said there had been a “reasonably steady flow of cases of debts being restructured”.
However, the volume of firms seeking to renegotiate debt remains small compared to the level of restructurings witnessed in the aftermath of Dubai’s debt crisis.
Several big name firms in the emirate were caught out by the onset of the global financial crisis, which saw the emirate’s booming economy and real estate market go into reverse.
State-owned conglomerate Dubai World, whose companies included real-estate firm Nakheel and ports operator DP World, stunned global markets in November 2009 when it asked creditors for a six-month standstill on its obligations. Dubai World restructured around $25 billion of debt in 2011, followed by a $15 billion restructuring deal in 2015.
“We would not expect it to become (comparable to 2008-9) so barring some form of sharp external impetus such as global political instability or a protectionist trade war,” said Wilde.
Nor did he see the introduction of VAT as particularly driving this trend, but rather as just one more factor impacting some already strained sectors (e.g. some sub sectors of retail) “which were already pressured by other macro factors.”

FACTOID

Four

The number of interest rate rises in the UAE since March 2017.