State -run Korea Development Bank (KDB) on Monday embarked on due diligence on GM Korea to study its cost structure before determining whether to grant financial aid and tax breaks to help to keep Korea’s third largest automaker in business.
“We have reached a general consensus on due diligence conditions although there still are some differences in opinion,” KDB Chairman Lee Dong-gull told reporters after a kick-off meeting with GM officials at GM Korea’s Bupyeong plant. He also added that Barry Engle, GM’s head of international operations, pledged in a meeting with him last week to cooperate with KDB by providing necessary information based on mutual trust.
The state lender plans to focus on examining cost structure of the Korean unit including its transfer price, loans from the headquarters, fees to the headquarters, royalty payment and labor cost during due diligence.
GM President Dan Ammann in an interview on Monday said the Korean operations can be “a sustainable, profitable business” if unions and the government move fast on restructuring outline.
KDB Chairman Lee Dong-gull
After announcing its plan last month to shut down one of its four assembly lines in Korea in May and decide the fate of the remaining plants within weeks, the Detroit-based auto giant proposed to the Korean government to provide fresh funding of $2.8 billion to finance allocation of two new vehicle models and convert $2.7 billion debt into equity to clean the company’s balance sheet with overwhelming debt. It asked KDB holding a 17 percent stake in GM Korea to participate in the scheme, but the lender has been maintaining that it would wait until the due diligence is over to determine whether to offer help.
“Time is short and everybody must move with urgency,” he said.
About 2 trillion won GM Korea owes to the Detroit headquarters are due by the end of March. It can run into liquidity crisis if the debt is not rolled over or reorganized.
GM Korea meanwhile this week will apply for designation of its plants in Bupyeong and Changwon as foreign investment zones with host Incheon city and South Gyeongsang Provincial governments. Once categorized as free economic zone, two plants are eligible for a 100 percent tax exemption for the first five years and 50 percent for the next two years.
By Lee Seung-hoon and Choi Mira
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