Korea Development Bank Ends Talks with Lehman Brothers

| About: Lehman Brothers (LEH)

According to Dow Jones Newswire, on Tuesday, the Financial Services Commission [FSC], South Korean government’s top financial regulator that talks between Korea Development Bank [KDB] and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (LEH) had ended.

The FSC Chairman Mr. Jun Kwang-woo, who overseas KDB’s operations, and had been in favor of KDB pursuing an expansion strategy, seems to have turned more cautious in his business considerations for the 158-year-old New York-based investment bank.

On Tuesday, after cautioning one day earlier against KDB’s plan to buy a stake in Lehman as the timing wasn’t good, Mr. Jun told DJ Newswires that the talks were now over between KDB and Lehman. “There will be other opportunities (for KDB),” Jun said. In another report, the DJ Newswires noted that another government official, who declined to be named, stated that although KDB had seriously considered investing in the U.S. firm, it had decided not to.

Last month, KDB officials met with Lehman’s management in New York to discuss buying a stake of up to 50% of the investment bank. Talks however stalled after KDB team reached the conclusion that Lehman was asking for too high a price. Then last week - according to Korea daily Chosun Ilbo, KDB sent a proposal for a 25% stake in the U.S. firm for as much as $5.3 billion. The proposal was structured toward a consortium of major South Korean financial institutions to invest jointly in Lehman. However, all of the private investors refused to join the consortium, saying they weren’t interested in investing in Lehman due to economic uncertainties on the local front.

Yesterday’s abrupt end of the negotiations came as Lehman’s management finds itself under increasing pressure to raise more capital before the company reports earnings later next week. The news also prompted Lehman Brothers shares to lose more than one-third of their value in the U.S., reaching the lowest level in nearly 10 years on uncertainty about the bank’s ability to sell its asset management business and raise the needed capital.

On a separate note: A conflicting Reuters report noted that Korea Financial Services Commission spokesperson said its Chairman never made declarations indicating talks had ended. Certainly, these conflicting reports are confusing, but at the same time, contradictory attributes are nothing new to Lehman Brothers. For several months now, the company has been subject of much speculation and rumor regarding the state of its discussions with potential investors and asset sales.