Hana Financial Open to Insurer Acquisition, Chairman Kim Says

Hana Financial Group Inc. (086790), which completed South Korea’s biggest banking takeover last month, will seek to buy an insurer to shore up its existing business, Chairman Kim Jung Tai said.

“Insurance is the weakest part among Hana Financial Group’s operations,” Kim told reporters today in Seoul in his first briefing since taking over this week. “We have interest in that area and will look into it when good opportunities arise.” Kim ruled out a bid for ING Groep NV’s Asian insurance unit, saying the competition is already tough.

Kim, 60, said he aims to make Hana Financial one of the top 50 banks in the world, ranked by assets, by 2015. Hana is also open to acquisitions of small U.S. banks as it seeks growth beyond its saturated home market, he said, without identifying potential takeover targets or specifying regions where Hana wants to expand.

Kim began his career at SeoulBank, joining Hana Bank in 1992 and becoming president and CEO of the subsidiary in March 2008. He served as CEO of Hana’s brokerage unit from 2006 to 2007, according to a profile posted on the company’s website. As chairman and chief executive officer of the group he succeeds Kim Seung Yu, who retired on March 23.

KEB Integration

Kim Jung Tai will work as a “helper” and “adviser” on the integration of Korea Exchange Bank (004940) with Hana, the nation’s fourth-largest financial holding company, following legal disputes, regulatory delays and opposition from KEB workers that delayed the 4.4 trillion-won ($3.9 billion) takeover for more than a year.

Hana on Feb. 9 completed the acquisition of a 57 percent stake in KEB from Lone Star Funds and Export Import Bank of Korea, allowing the company to narrow the gap with rivals such as Woori Finance Holdings Co. (053000) and KB Financial Group Inc. (105560)

The deal, first signed in November 2010, was hampered by courts, regulators and lawmakers, derailing Dallas-based Lone Star’s exit from its 2003 investment in KEB. Employees of KEB criticized Hana’s acquisition of the lender from Lone Star, saying it helped the U.S. fund make excessive profit.

Hana on Feb. 17 agreed with KEB workers to keep the bank independent for next five years and keep the same number of staff to assuage workers who pledged to “fight with all possible means” including strikes.

To contact the reporter on this story: Seonjin Cha in Seoul at scha2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chitra Somayaji at csomayaji@bloomberg.net

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