Fab equipment maker Wonik IPS was using multiple securities firms to purchase the shares of competitor APTC, TheElec has learned.
Wonik IPS started buying listed shares of APTC in May and the move is ongoing, sources said.
It is unknown how many shares Wonik IPS purchased in total for the past two months but if it continues, it could exceed the 5% mark that will require it to disclose its purchases under local financial laws, they said.
However, if Wonik IPS was using trustees, it could purchase over 5% without needing to disclose the matter, they added.
It is unknown why exactly Wonik IPS was purchasing APTC’s shares; it has never bought shares listed on the Korean exchange of other companies in the past.
Considering the current circumstances surrounding APTC, there is a strong likelihood of it being a hostile takeover attempt.
Etcher maker APTC is currently in the middle of a battle with its former CEO Kim Nam-hun.
Kim has filed lawsuits to prevent APTC from issuing new shares and is also seeking a motion to access its books.
The former CEO has been seeking to sell their shares in APTC through Samsung Securities since last year.
Sources said Wonik IPS may have an arrangement with Kim to buy his shares in APTC. Kim and his associates own 13.4% of shares in APTC, while the current management team at APTC, including CEO Choi Woo-hyung and others have a total of 9%.
However, other larger shareholders were also more favorable towards Choi’s party, the sources said.
Wonik IPS’s main product is deposition machines and its past attempts to launch etchers have failed.
Meanwhile, APTC has a 90% market share in metal etchers supplied to memory chip giant SK Hynix.
Samsung relies on Applied Materials for 90% of the etchers it uses. Samsung has been attempting to foster a South Korean equipment maker to develop etchers to use as a secondary supplier but these efforts have so far failed.
Wonik IPS is a large supplier of equipment to Samsung and if it succeeds in taking over APTC, this could substantially shake the fab equipment landscape in South Korea.