Hanjin Shipping, once the world's seventh-largest shipping company, is on the verge of collapse and fading into history, despite its strenuous efforts to revive itself while under court receivership.
According to the Seoul Central District Court in charge of the court receivership, accounting firm Samil PricewaterhouseCoopers has concluded that liquidation of the cash-strapped shipper is "more economical" rather than continuing with rehabilitation.
The accounting firm estimated the liquidation value of Hanjin Shipping at 1.79 trillion won ($1.53 billion), which is about double the value estimated earlier this year. The viability report was submitted Tuesday to the court, which will decide on the fate of the near-bankrupt company in early February next year.
Amid the growing likelihood of Hanjin Shipping's bankruptcy, the company's stocks closed at 387 won on the Seoul bourse Wednesday, down by 5.1 percent from the previous session's close. The stock price hit a record low for three straight days this week.
Last week, the Korea Stock Exchange put the company under "special monitoring" over its worsening financial health. If the stock price fails to recover by mid-April or the court rules for bankruptcy, the company will be delisted.
Established in 1977, Hanjin Shipping led the Korean shipping industry as the top shipper for nearly four decades. In its prime years, Hanjin Shipping used to make up 7 percent of Korea's total harbor volume. Its stock price hit a record high of 38,694 won in the firm's heyday in January 2011.
The shipping giant, however, has been under financial strain due mainly to falling freight rates, triggered by ship oversupply and the global economic slump.
Under pressure from mounting losses, Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho pledged to hand his management rights over to creditors in January this year and sought creditor-led rehabilitation.
Estimating that at least 1.3 trillion won was needed to normalize the business, its creditors, including main creditor Korea Development Bank, demanded that Hanjin Group inject at least 700 billion won into a self-rescue plan, along with several other conditions.
The parent group, however, offered to pour in no more than 500 billion won. The funds included the chairman's private assets.
As the creditors decided not to rescue Hanjin Shipping, the company filed for court receivership on Aug. 31.
The launch of the court receivership led to cargo chaos, with 90 percent of Hanjin vessels either being handed in or sold. Cargo worth 16 trillion won lost their way, staying stranded at sea as they attempted to avoid seizure. The owners of goods and forwarders were burdened with extra costs in looking for alternatives.
The government, Hanjin Group and creditors vowed to inject emergency funds to ease the cargo chaos. The government also released a long-term plan to raise the competitiveness of the Korean shipping industry as a whole.
The company also strived to secure cash by selling its overseas subsidiaries, the Asia-US shipping route and others. It is gearing up to sell its Long Beach Terminal to the world's leading container shipping line Mediterranean Shipping.
Criticism, meanwhile, has continued over creditors' inconsistency in the way they deal with the shipping industry. Critics have highlighted how Hyundai Merchant Marine, also suffering from ailing performance, was salvaged, despite insufficient fulfillment of the conditions demanded by its creditors for the self-rescue plan.
Some even raised suspicions that the decision on Hanjin Shipping's court receivership could be linked to the influence-peddling scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her confidante Choi Soon-sil.
There have been speculations that Choi allegedly played a key role in the creditors' decision, following the Hanjin Group chairman's "insufficient" donations to the controversial foundations she allegedly controlled - the Mir and K-Sports foundations. Cho was found to have offered 1 billion won to the foundations, the smallest amount among top conglomerates.
The government, however, has denied the rumor.
Source: The Korea Herald
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