Aussie firm keen on Hanjin takeover
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Zambales, Philippines — An Australian shipbuilder is the latest company to express interest in rescuing the debt-ridden Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines.
Lawyer Rosario Bernaldo, court-appointed receiver of Hanjin, last week confirmed that Perth-based Austal Ltd. had been in exclusive talks with the creditors of the bankrupt Korean shipbuilding firm.
“It (Austal) is among the possible investors although there has been no formal offer yet,” Bernaldo told the Inquirer by telephone on Saturday.
Austal and American private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management have reportedly formed a consortium to negotiate a buyout of Hanjin.
Earlier this year, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority chair and administrator, Wilma Eisma, said a North American firm and several European investors also showed interest in rescuing Hanjin.
“We are hoping that by the end of the year, there’s already an approved rehabilitation plan,” Bernaldo said.
He added: “If that happens, of course I will recommend to the court that the displaced workers be allowed to go back to work.”
Two Chinese shipbuilding firms, one of which is state-owned, have also expressed interest in taking over Hanjin’s operations, according to Ceferino Rodolfo, managing head of the Board of Investments.
This has triggered fears of security and strategic implications, considering that Hanjin’s location here is about 260 kilometers from the Chinese-occupied Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
Hanjin owes $400 million to five Philippine banks and $900 million to South Korean lenders, forcing it to file for voluntary rehabilitation in a local court.
It is considered the biggest corporate default in local history.
In January this year, Judge Richard Paradeza of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court placed Hanjin under corporate rehabilitation after it sought a court-assisted relief amid its financial woes.
Hanjin’s liquidity problem had forced it to lay off about 10,000 workers since December last year.
During its peak, Hanjin had a workforce of 30,000. —JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT
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