Deal claims $900 million purchase price

South Korea’s Halim Group is denying a report in Friday’s Financial Times that private equity firm MBK Partners is on the verge of acquiring Nongsusan, Korea’s fifth largest home shopping channel, for $900 million.

The deal as described in the report would see MBK and Korea’s National Pension Service join hands to take 70% of Nongsusan, a cable shopping channel which specializes in food.

However Halim prexy Kim Hong-kuk, who owns a significant share of Nongsusan himself in addition to the 43.7% owned by Halim and its subsidiaries, was quoted in the Korean press on Friday as saying the report “has no basis in fact” and that “among potential suitors, we have yet to reach an agreement on price.”

Another Halim representative is quoted as saying that given the expected difficulties in gaining regulatory approval for such a deal, the company is considering instead a strategic partnership with MBK together with the sale of a smaller stake.

The Seoul-based MBK has already signaled its strong interest in Asian media with its acquisition of Taiwan’s second-largest cable firm China Network Systems last year for $1.6 billion. Formed soon after the Korean government first approved the operation of local private equity firms in 2004, MBK is headed by former Carlyle Asia head Michael Kim, and is mostly funded by international investors.

The rumored price for the Nongsusan deal confirms the high level of interest in Korea’s TV home shopping sector, which after a decade of strong growth trails only department/discount stores and internet shopping in retail sales.

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