Singapore’s GIC said to have invested $92.6m in Korean retailer E-Land Group

Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC has injected 100 billion won ($92 million) into Korean retail major E-Land Group, according to South Korean media reports. The round was part of a 200-billion won investment led by Hong Kong-based Anchor Equity Partners.

E-Land Group is a South Korean conglomerate headquartered in Seoul which has business interests in retail malls, restaurants, theme parks, hotels and construction businesses. Its cornerstone business line is fashion apparel business.

E-Land has not publicly commented on the round while an email inquiry sent to GIC did not elicit a response at the time of publishing. This latest infusion of capital follows the Meritz Financial Group investing 300 billion won ($276 million) in the firm as part of an investment consortium led by Korea’s Keystone Private Equity in January 2018.

GIC has previously invested in E-Land; in 2009 it acquired an outlet of Kim’s Club, the hypermarket chain of E-Land, and the Gangnam branch of its NewCore Department Store. It subsequently leased them back to E-Land to operate.

As at 31 March 2017, GIC is estimated to have assets under management (AUM) ranging between $359 billion to $398 billion. Asian commitments excluding Japan are reported at 19 per cent, with a private equity allocation of 9 per cent as at June 2017.

GIC, along with CPPIB, is also a limited partner (LP) in the $500-million debut Korean fund of Anchor Equity Partners which closed in October 2013. Anchor Equity Partners was founded in August 2012 by former Goldman Sachs executives and is led by Managing Partner Sanggyun Ahn.

GIC’s previous investments in South Korea include backing a 130-billion won ($119.6 million) investment in A Twosome Place, the cafe chain of CJ Foodville, the restaurant arm of South Korean food and entertainment conglomerate CJ. Anchor Equity Partners and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) also participated in the round.

E-Land Group is looking to streamline its business units and consolidate them under E-Land World, the de facto holding unit or E-Land Group. It has been seeking to secure 1 trillion won ($920 million) in new funding to stabilise its financials and restructure prior to a public listing. As part of this initiative, it offloaded hospitality assets in August 2017 ahead of the planned public offer of its retail unit.

In April 2017, friction with the Korea Exchange (KRX) had led the E-Land Group to delay the listing of its retail unit, E-Land Retail, due to a number of factors. E-Land has been downgraded by the Korea Investors Service, Korea Ratings and other credit rating agencies over the 2016/2017 period due to the state of its financial health.

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