Kyobo Life minority shareholders deny collusion with accountants

By Son Ji-hyoung
  • Published : Aug 22, 2021 - 17:58
  • Updated : Aug 22, 2021 - 18:12

Kyobo Life Insurance’s headquarters in central Seoul (Kyobo Life Insurance)
Minority shareholders of Kyobo Life Insurance denied having colluded with the company’s accountants to influence the pricing of shares as they sought to exit the company after its failed attempt to go public, one of its shareholders, Affinity Equity Partners, said Sunday.

Legal representatives of the investor consortium led by the Hong Kong-based private equity firm argued in a statement that it abided by South Korea’s rules when estimating the strike price with the accounting firms it had hired -- Deloitte Anjin and Nexia Samduk.

Moreover, the strike price was not deliberately inflated, it argued, citing Kyobo Life’s internal estimate of 429,546 won ($363) apiece, higher than the consortium’s calculation of 409,912 won apiece, during the first day of trial at the Seoul Central District Court on Friday.

Prosecutors earlier indicted two officials with Affinity Equity Partners, three officials with Seoul-based accounting firm Deloitte Anjin and an accountant with Nexia Samduk on charges of violating the Certified Public Accountant Act by colluding with one another to inflate the fair market value of shares subject to “put options.” Prosecutors suspect that this had driven up the cost of the consortium’s shares to Kyobo Life Chairman Shin Chang-jae, who was bound to buy the shares after Kyobo Life’s 2015 IPO plan fell through.

Kyobo Life has argued that the investor consortium orchestrated the pricing process and impeded the accountants from performing their duties independently.

This is the latest development of the shareholder feud surrounding Kyobo Life, as Shin boycotted the purchase of the investor consortium’s shares under the shareholder agreement. Affinity-led shareholders filed a complaint against Kyobo Life with the International Chamber of Commerce over Kyobo Life’s failure to proceed with the IPO in a timely manner.

Affinity leads the consortium, which holds a 24 percent stake in the nation’s third-largest life insurer. The consortium bought the stake for 245,000 won apiece in 2012.

The trial will resume on Sept. 10.

Affinity has sought to exit from pre-IPO bets in Korea, with promised IPOs left unfulfilled. Last week, the Affinity-led consortium exited from Hyundai Card by selling its 24 percent stake for roughly 520 billion won to Fubon Financial Group’s affiliates and Hyundai Commercial, four years after the consortium bought the same number of shares for 380 billion won.

Under the terms, Hyundai Card was to complete its IPO by this year, but a projected cut in credit card processing fees in Korea and a failed attempt to expand to Vietnam hampered the move.

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