Hyundai Merchant Marine, South Korea's largest shipping firm, denied on Thursday a local report it had begun a debt-rescheduling program led by creditor banks. "It is not true that the company began a debt-rescheduling program led by creditors and the government formed a debt team due to rising debts," the company said in a statement.
The JoongAng Ilbo newspaper quoted an official at the FSS as saying that the new debt-rescheduling team was formed as some financial institutions were inclined to collect debts from the company after it revealed an increased debt-to-equity ratio in its March audit report. Hyundai Merchant said
it was a profitable company with a profitable future. Hyundai Merchant said it had posted 457.8 billion won ($350 million) in operating profits last year on 5.2 trillion won in sales.
The newspaper said Hyundai Merchant's debts had risen 46 percent to 6.7 trillion won as of end-March compared to 4.6 trillion won as of end-1999, driving its debt-to-equity ratio up to 980.1 percent, well over the government-mandated maximum of 200 percent.
Hyundai said the 2.1 trillion won increase in debt was mostly due to the purchase of three liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers for 954 billion won and 504.3 billion won of additional burden in foreign debts due to the weak won. "However, the LNG operation based upon a long-term contract with Korea Gas Corp is a profitable business, which will pay off later," it said.
The company said it would have no problem repaying $2.8 billion in foreign debts in dollar terms even if the Korean won depreciated further as it expected $5.0 billion in sales this year, it said. - (Reuters)