Halla mulls buying back Visteon stake in climate control unit

SEOUL (Bloomberg) -- Halla Holdings Corp. CEO Im Kee Young said he's still considering buying back the group's former car heater and air conditioner maker after a buyout fund agreed to acquire a stake in the business, Halla Visteon Climate Control Corp.

Hahn & Co.'s offer for 70 percent of the former Halla unit "hasn't damped our interest in buying back the company," Im said in an interview.

Hahn offered about 4 trillion won ($3.6 billion) for the stake held by Visteon Corp., Korea Economic Daily reported Nov. 24, without saying where it got the information.

Halla Group's former climate unit was sold in 1998 after over-expansion saddled the group with debt and led to its bankruptcy in 1997. A 4 trillion won offer would be 28 percent more than market value of a 70 percent stake, based on Wednesday's closing price in Seoul.

Halla Visteon shares gained 0.5 percent to 41,800 won on Wednesday, bringing its gain this year to 7.9 percent.

"The price that's been circulating in the media seems too high," Im said.

Visteon announced an offer to buy the 30 percent stake it didn't already own in the company in July 2012, then terminated the offer that same month, saying it didn't receive sufficient offers to sell.

Im also said Halla Holdings won't increase dividends "for the time being," because it needs to stabilize its finances after separating from car parts maker Mando Corp., the biggest unit in its group.

South Korean companies have faced increasing pressure to improve shareholder returns. Mando will pay out 25 percent of its profit as dividends from this year, the company said in an e-mailed response to questions.

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