Image: Namyang Dairy Products logo. Credit: Namyang Dairy Products.
On May 28, domestic private equity firm Hahn & Company 한앤컴퍼니 acquired Namyang Dairy Products 남양유업, taking the company out of the hands of the founding family that established it in 1964. The company’s president Hong Won-sik 홍원식, the oldest son of the company’s founder Hong Du-yeong 홍두영, sold a 53% stake under his control for KRW 310b (USD 278m). Namyang was South Korea’s first producer of baby formula, and was known for its “healthy baby competition” 우량아 선발대회 in the 1970s.
In the past few years, however, the company faced massive consumer boycott because of its practice of forcing nearly expired products on retailers, and recorded an operating loss of KRW 77b (USD 69m) last year. The final nail in the coffin was the company’s tendentious claim that its yogurt drink Bulgaris 불가리스 could cure coronavirus, which prompted investigation by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety 식품의약품안전처 as well as the Korea Exchange 한국거래소. (See previous coverage, “Namyang Pumps and Dumps.”) Hahn & Company, established in 2010, is a private equity firm with over KRW 8t (USD 6b) in capital.