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Report: Woori Bank in talks to buy controlling stake in Kyobo Securities

South Korea's Woori Bank is in talks to acquire a controlling interest in Kyobo Securities Co. Ltd. from Kyobo Life Insurance Co. Ltd., in a deal estimated at 320 billion won, The Korea Times reported June 13, citing unnamed sources at two local private equity funds.

The negotiations come on the heels of the lender's plan to transform itself into a holding company by early 2019. The conversion allows the lender to invest in other businesses such as securities, asset management and real estate trust.

Woori Bank asked a domestic fund to handle the talks as local financial regulators are still conducting a probe into the group over its alleged hiring of family members of government officials, a senior executive at a fund said. The bank will take over the negotiations once the investigation concludes, the source added.

Meanwhile, Kyobo Life, which owns 51.6% of Kyobo Securities, confirmed plans to off-load its holdings in the unit. The insurer, however, declined to name the potential buyers it was having talks with due to the sensitivity of the issue, the publication said.

The unnamed senior executive said Kyobo Life was looking to divest holdings worth up to 370 billion won, including a management premium with Woori Bank.

Woori Bank is the only commercial bank in the country that has not converted itself into a holding firm due to delays in the government's plan to sell and privatize the company. Financial Services Commission Chairman Choi Jong-ku said the government will sell its stake in the lender after the planned conversion to a holding company structure, Yonhap News Agency reported in May.

As of June 13, US$1 was equivalent to 1,083.57 South Korean won.