Kumho seeks investors for Cooper stake

SEOUL — Kumho Tire Co. Inc. is looking for investors to buy a 10.7-percent stake in the South Korean tire maker that Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. has owned since February 2005.

Cooper, which bought the stake two years ago for $107 million, exercised its option last month to have Kumho buy the 7.5 million shares back, Kumho President Sae Chul Oh said at an investment seminar March 4 in Seoul.

Kumho has asked Cooper to hang on to the stake until new investors can be found.

“The tentative deadline for our search is May of this year,” a Kumho spokesman said, without commenting on which investors have shown interest.

Brandes Investment Partners is another major investor, with a 7.2-percent stake. Kumho Asian Group owns 38.5 percent.

Cooper bought its stake in 2005 at 14,650 won ($15 at current exchange rates) a share, Kumho said. The stock was trading at about 10,000 won March 11.

At the time, Cooper said it was buying the shares as part of its global positioning strategy.

Findlay, Ohio-based Cooper recorded dividend income of $6.3 million during the time it has owned a piece of Kumho, according to Cooper’s 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It valued the investment at $112.7 million at year-end 2007.

Kumho reported a 2007 loss of $25.7 million on sales of $2.14 billion in 2007. The company expects sales to increase 22 percent to $2.7 billion in 2008, with earnings of $35 million.

In a filing with the Korea Exchange, Kumho attributed the loss to interest costs, foreign currency fluctuations and overseas plant expansion.

March 12, 2008 | Tire Business