[Bloomberg] Samsung’s win is S. Korea’s loss

July 21, 2015
(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)


Long before the South Korean media began indulging in anti-Semitism, Samsung’s recent effort to pull a fast one on its own investors was already firmly in insult territory. The company’s affront extended both to shareholders and to the Korean public.

The bid by Samsung’s de facto holding company, Cheil Industries, to buy Samsung C&T at a laughably below-market price was a naked power grab by the company’s founding Lee family. But Samsung so dominates South Korea that it managed on Friday to convince the subsidiary’s shareholders to ignore their own interests.

The merger marks a defeat for South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who won office in late 2012 with promises to rein in the family-owned companies that stifle Korean innovation. Friday’s vote was Park’s economic Waterloo, the moment her government decisively lost the fight against the oligarchs.

It’s also a defeat for activist investor Paul Elliott Singer. Last month, Singer began publicizing his 7.12 percent stake in Samsung C&T, the group’s construction subsidiary, in order to block Samsung Group’s proposed deal. Foreign hedge funds are always controversial in Korea, where they’re often derided as “vultures” and “parasites” picking at the nation’s hard work for a quick profit. But Singer was confronted with particularly nasty attacks from Samsung’s sympathizers; media reports referred to him as the face of the “Jews of Wall Street” and their “ruthless and merciless” ways.