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Woori Bank strives to attract European investors

By Nam Hyun-woo

Woori Bank plans to launch investor relations (IR) events in Europe in the first half of this year to attract institutional investors, an official of the Seoul-based lender said Sunday. CEO Lee kwang-goo will lead the events.

The move is aimed at raising Woori’s share price and to help the state-run Korea Deposit Insurance Corp. (KDIC), which wants to sell some of its stake.

In December, KDIC sold its 29.7 percent stake in Woori to seven entities at 2.4 trillion won ($2.11 billion) to retrieve taxpayer money poured into the bank as a bailout after the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

KDIC still holds a 21.4 percent stake and plans to sell 18.4 percent.

Last December’s successful deals have been attributed to Woori CEO Lee’s IR trips to the U.S., Japan and Europe early last year, which led to strong share prices.

“After the IR events in 2016, the stake of foreign investors in Woori increased from 20 percent to 25 percent,” the official said.

Woori believes a further rise in its stock price will boost its bid to sell its remaining government-owned stake. The stock closed at 13,900 won Friday, up 18.2 percent from its December block sale price of 11,763 won.

Market watchers expect the shares will eventually rise up to 17,000 won, because its net interest margin (NIM) is likely to be stable while costs are projected to be contained.

“Woori is expected to post a net 480.1 billion won profit in the first quarter this year,” Hana Financial Investment analyst Han Jung-tae said. “The bank’s NIM is rising and the expansion in loans is steady.

” After the block sale late last year, the new board members set its dividends at 400 won per share, which meets market expectations.”

Han added that Woori’s plans to shift to a holding company system would help to boost its performance and stock prices further this year.

The KDIC will set the selling schedule depending on share prices.


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