Troubled South Korean handset manufacturer Pantech faces either bankruptcy or acquisition by a foreign company unless the country’s three operators offer financial support, according to a Korea Times report.

The report claims the Korea Development Bank (KDB), the key creditor bank of Pantech, has asked SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus to take part in a capital-increase plan to address the handset vendor’s debt. The three have a total of KRW180 billion (US$176 million) in accounts receivable.

“In consideration of all aspects of its business, Pantech is unlikely to get additional funds from creditors,” an official at KDB told the Korea Times yesterday. “Still, the firm is estimated to be more viable with a capital increase than being sold.”

Qualcomm and Samsung also both have stakes in Pantech, which last year shifted focus to its domestic market after struggling to make a profit from its international strategy. However, Samsung and LG are tough competitors in South Korea and Pantech was forced to turn to creditors in February for help in dealing with debts of more than $1 billion.

In the last year several foreign companies such as Indian smartphone maker Micromax and China’s Lenovo have been identified as new possible investors, but no deals have come to fruition.