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Mirae Asset backs out of W4.1tr IFC deal

IFC Seoul in Yeouido, western Seoul (Mirae Asset Global Investments)
IFC Seoul in Yeouido, western Seoul (Mirae Asset Global Investments)
South Korea’s Mirae Asset Global Investments is pulling out of a 4.1 trillion won ($2.86 billion) deal to acquire IFC Seoul, a landmark complex in Yeouido, western Seoul, from Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management, industry sources said Monday.

In May, Mirae Asset was picked as the preferred bidder to acquire the IFC Complex, which consists of three office towers, after fierce competition with a consortium led by retail giant Shinsegae Group.

“Mirae Asset has filed a dispute settlement suit with the Singapore International Arbitration Centre to retrieve a 200 billion won deposit paid in May for the deal,” an industry source close to the matter told The Korea Herald on condition of anonymity.

Mirae Asset had initially planned to set up a private real estate investment trust to raise funds for the acquisition and paid a 200 billion won deposit to Brookfield in advance. But the plan fell through as the Korean government refused to greenlight the launch, citing flaws in the REIT's design.

“Adding to their differences on Mirae Asset’s funding plan, both parties were not able to get on the same page on whether to carry out the deal in Korea or Singapore for tax issues,” the source added.

Under the deal, there is a clause that allows Mirae Asset to seek to retrieve the deposit money if the establishment of a REIT fails. But Brookfield reportedly refused to issue the refund, claiming Mirae Asset should be responsible for not completing the deal within the deadline set for the third quarter this year.

According to sources, since the South Korean government refused to approve Mirae Asset’s funding plan in August, the Korean financial giant had sought to come up with new ways to raise capital. Brookfield reportedly suggested raising the money in Singapore, which offers more tax benefits, but Mirae Asset refused to do so.

Industry watchers say that rate hikes both in the US and Korea, coupled with the sharply weakening value of the Korean won may have negatively affected talks between the two parties.

IFC Seoul, built on a site of 85,300 square meters in 2012, is comprised of three office towers, the five-star Conrad Seoul Hotel and IFC Mall. Toronto-based Brookfield acquired the complex from original developer AIG Group in 2016 for 2.55 trillion won.

Last year, Mirae Asset Global Investments' operating profit jumped 138.8 percent on-year to 212.9 billion won, according to recent data compiled by Financial Supervisory Service. The total value of its assets under management amounted to 167.3 trillion won as of April this year.

(mkjung@heraldcorp.com)

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