Korea Gas to Consider Selling Shares, Assets, New CEO Says

Korea Gas Corp., the world’s biggest buyer of liquefied natural gas, may consider selling shares and idled assets to improve its finances, according to its new chief executive officer.

The state-run utility will boost investments in upstream and downstream industries to ensure stable supply, while seeking to improve “quality’” in overseas projects, Jang Seok Hyo said today in an e-mailed statement. Jang, who took office today, was previously the head of the Seongnam, South Korea-based company’s resource business.

Korea Gas’s debt-to-equity ratio increased to 390 percent as of March 31 from 385 percent at the end of 2012, according to a statement posted in May on the company’s website. The company’s net profit declined 31 percent in the first three months of this year from a year earlier.

“It is our first priority to improve finances in order to reduce the company’s high debt-to-equity ratio,” said Jang, who joined Korea Gas in 1983. “Without financial soundness, it won’t be possible for us to achieve a long-term, sustainable growth, which includes securing supplies from overseas resource projects.”

Korea Gas dropped 1.8 percent to 60,900 won at 1:08 p.m. in Seoul trading, bringing this year’s loss to 19 percent. The local benchmark Kospi index has lost 4.2 percent in 2013.

The utility’s major overseas business include a gas project in Mozambique, Iraq’s Zubair field and a gas field in Myanmar, according to another statement on the company’s website.

Korea Gas imported 34.97 million metric tons of LNG last year under 16 long term and three mid-term contracts with 10 countries including Qatar, Oman and Australia, according to a statement posted in May on the company’s website.

The government owned 26.9 percent of the company at the end of 2012, while state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. held 24.5 percent and local governments 9.5 percent, according to the statement.

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