UPDATE 1-S.Korea's sale of Woori Finance gains ground, units attract bids
(Adds context, quote from analyst, details)
* At least three South Korean firms preliminary bidders for Woori's brokerage unit
* Brokerage bids seen as boosting govt's efforts to privatise biggest banking group
By Joyce Lee
SEOUL, Oct 21 (Reuters) - At least three South Korean firms made preliminary bids for the brokerage unit of the Woori Finance Holdings Co Ltd, giving a boost to the government's decade-old attempts to privatise the country's biggest banking group.
KB Financial Group, NongHyup Financial Group Inc and Seoul-based private equity firm PineStreet Group each said they were among the initial bidders for Woori Investment and Securities Co Ltd, South Korea's biggest brokerage firm in terms of assets.
The brokerage is one of several units of Woori Finance the current administration is selling off separately or in batches in a bid to speed up the privatisation of the holding company.
The government is trying to sell its entire 57 percent stake in Woori Finance to recoup the more than $11 billion of taxpayers' money it used to bail out the firm since the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.
South Korea has so far tried to sell Woori Finance three times, but failed due to a dearth of bidders.
"As the government decided to split the sale of Woori, the likelihood of Woori's privatisation has increased," said Kim In, an analyst at Seoul-based Eugene Investment & Securities.
Other units like lease and loan company Woori Financial Co Ltd and non-performing loan (NPL) management firm Woori F&I Co Ltd also attracted preliminary bidders including KB Financial and Daishin Securities Co Ltd, the bidding firms said.
Officials at Woori Finance were not immediately available for comment. Citigroup is advising Woori Finance on the sale.
Woori Investment had assets worth more than $26 billion at the end of June. ($1 = 1060.8250 Korean won) (Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Miral Fahmy)
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