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South Korea's KB Kookmin Bank to sell stake in Kazakhstan bank

Seoul-based KB Financial Group Inc. unit KB Kookmin Bank moved a step closer to completing a plan to offload its stake in Kazakhstan's Bank CenterCredit JSC, which said in a Feb. 1 statement that it has selected a consortium of investors as a primary bidder.

The consortium interested in KB Kookmin Bank's 41.93% holding includes TsesnaBank JSC, TsesnaBank's parent Financial Holding Tsesna JSC and Bank CenterCredit's chairman Bakhitbek Bayseitov. Bayseitov held 25.6% in the bank as of Jan. 1, TsesnaBank said in the press release. Bayseitov is also seeking to buy a 10% stake in the Kazakh bank from International Finance Corp., a private-sector unit of the World Bank Group.

Speaking to S&P Global Market Intelligence, an official at KB Kookmin Bank's global business department declined to disclose the asking price for the 41.93% stake, which comprises both common and preferred stock. KB Kookmin Bank owns 44.21 billion won of common shares in Bank CenterCredit based on the Feb. 2 closing price.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of June, according to the release, after which the consortium plans to merge Bank CenterCredit with TsesnaBank.

Starting in 2008, over the next two years KB Kookmin Bank invested about 1 trillion won in Bank CenterCredit through three stake purchases and a capital injection, a KB Financial investor relations official said in an interview. However, the Kazakh bank was badly hit by the global financial crisis, leading it to report a drop in net profit to 5.84 billion tenge in 2008 from 16.03 billion tenge in 2007. By 2010, the bank was deeply in the red, with losses of 30.67 billion tenge.

KB Kookmin Bank has since completed any writedowns from the failed investment, the investor relations official noted.

As of Feb. 3, US$1 was equivalent to 323.73 Kazakhstan tenge and 1,135.73 South Korean won.