Struggling Korean handset maker Pantech put up for sale

Having filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, ongoing troubles at Pantech have forced the company to seek a full buyout.

Pantech Discover (AT&T)
Pantech was looking good for expansion into the US back in 2013 with the Discover. Josh Miller/CNET

South Korea's number three handset maker, Pantech, has had a very rough year that will now culminate in its full sale, if it can find a buyer.

In February, Pantech filed for its second debt restructuring program. In July, the company asked for a deadline extension for repaying outstanding debt. In August, despite convincing creditors to extend the repayment deadline by two years interest-free, it filed for court receivership (equivalent to filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection). This week, Pantech put the company up for sale.

Pantech and its creditors presented a plan to sell the struggling company to the Seoul Central District Court and a public notice was issued yesterday. Bidders will have until 3.00 p.m. on October 7 to submit offers.

The decision to sell is largely based on the discernible discrepancy between the company's liquidated value and going concern value. Pantech's liquidating value stands at 189 billion Korean won ($182 million), while the going concern value is more than double that amount at 382 billion won ($366 million).

Although mostly speculation at this point, industry analysts have named Korean network carrier SK Telecom as the front runner for the bid. Other Korean conglomerates such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai Motor Group have also been mentioned as potential buyers.

The possibility of a foreign company nabbing Pantech is also very real. Earlier in April, an Indian consumer electronics giant, Micromax, had considered buying a sizeable stake in Pantech. Chinese handset makers Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi could all benefit from acquiring Pantech, forging entry into the nigh-impenetrable Korean handset market.

Pantech's financial troubles began in 2013 when it recorded losses for six consecutive quarters due to intense competition in the smartphone market. Diminishing sales and failure led to Korean carriers refusing to buy any new inventory because of existing stockpiles of thousands of unsold products.

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