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[Exclusive] Pharmaceuticals

GS Group joins race to acquire Korea’s botox maker Hugel

Shinsegae Group and a couple of global strategic investors also seen to be interested

By Jun 28, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

GS Group joins race to acquire Korea’s botox maker Hugel

A consortium led by South Korea’s GS Group is in talks to acquire a controlling stake in Hugel Inc., the country’s top maker of botulinum toxin, more commonly known as botox, from US private equity firm Bain Capital.

According to investment banking industry sources on Monday, the consortium, composed of the energy-focused business conglomerate and financial investors, wants to buy a 44% stake in Hugel from Bain Capital.

The bidding group has offered about 2.4 trillion won ($2.1 billion) for the stake, which includes management rights, sources said.

"We have reviewed an investment to take a minority stake in Hugel through a consortium, but nothing has been decided yet," GS Holdings said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday in response to the Korea Economic Daily report.

GS will be competing with other interested parties, including Shinsegae Group and a couple of global strategic investors, for the controlling stake, but the conglomerate stands a better chance of winning the deal as it has offered the highest bid, they said.

Industry watchers said GS, which has oil companies such as GS Caltex and GS Energy as its flagship affiliates, wants to diversify its business portfolio as the oil business has limited growth potential amid a global shift toward a carbon-free society.

GS Group’s bid to acquire Hugel is led by Huh Seo-hong, a nephew of GS Group Chairman Huh Chang-soo.

KOREA’S BOTOX MARKET LEADER

Established in 2001, Hugel is the country’s largest maker of botulinum toxin products used to treat overactive muscle diseases and facial wrinkles. The company controls about half the domestic botox market.

A Hugel researcher
A Hugel researcher

It went public by listing its shares on the tech-heavy Kosdaq market in 2015.

The company currently sells its products in 27 overseas markets, including Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Last year, it posted an operating profit of 78 billion won on revenue of 211 billion won.

Industry officials said it is uncertain if GS Group will make a deal with Bain Capital as the group previously engaged in several M&A activities, including bids for Asiana Airlines Inc. and Doosan Infracore last year, but withdrew at the last minute.

(Updated to add GS Holdings' regulatory filing on June 29 in response to the Korea Economic Daily report)

Write to Chae-Yeon Kim at Why29@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.
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