* Sale key for Hanjin in efforts to pay off creditors
* Potential bidder interest in the assets unclear
* Container ships, data systems included in sale
(Adds analyst comment, estimated ship values)
By Joyce Lee and Keith Wallis
SEOUL/SINGAPORE, Oct 18 South Korea's Hyundai
Merchant Marine Co Ltd said on Tuesday it may submit
a preliminary bid for Hanjin Shipping Co Ltd assets
used in Asia-to-U.S. routes - a sale seen as key to Hanjin's
prospects for paying off creditors.
Hanjin, the first major shipping line to be dragged down by
global industry overcapacity and low freight rates, put up
manpower and logistics systems, five container ships and 10
overseas businesses, for sale last week.
The extent of other bidding interest in the assets was
unclear but shipping sources were doubtful that there would be a
rush of buyers.
"Container shipping is a service business and anybody
acquiring it would be worried about potential legal suits as
well despite the sale being ring-fenced," said Rahul Kapoor,
director at Drewry Financial Research Services.
"Why would one pay for a ghost network when the credibility
of that network has been under threat," he said.
Kapoor said the only assets with any value would be the 8-10
year old container ships which could be worth $15-18 million
South Korean shipping sources also said that established
shippers would be unlikely to show any interest in the manpower
and logistics systems as they would have their own, although a
newcomer to the industry might find them valuable.
A Hyundai Merchant Marine spokesman said that while the firm
was considering the bid it had not made a final decision.
A bid by Hyundai Merchant Marine would be looked on
favourably by the South Korean government if it helps Hyundai
Merchant Marine expand market share or normalise its business,
government sources have said.
The court overseeing Hanjin Shipping's receivership said the
five container ships up for sale each had a cargo capacity of
about 6,500 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).
Container ships of that size are fit to serve routes between
Asia and the Middle East and India, which are operated by
shippers such as Hyundai Merchant Marine or Singapore's Pacific
International Lines (PIL), the sources said. They declined to be
identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
PIL did not immediately respond to questions asking if it
would be interested in buying the Hanjin ships and other assets.
A Seoul-based ship broker said the vessel sales would be
done by Hanjin's internal ship sales department rather than
handled by independent ship brokers.
None of Hanjin Shipping's interests in port terminals around
the world are included in the sale at the moment.
Hanjin, which filed for court receivership on Aug. 31 after
its creditors cut off financial support for the firm, had total
debt of 6.03 trillion won ($5.4 billion) as of end-June.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Keith Wallis; Editing by Edwina