South Korean listed companies handed out 8.59 trillion won ($7.28 billion), or more than one-third of their 2018 dividend payouts, to foreigners last year.
The amount was 4.1 percent lower from the previous year, with the foreign share in the country’s total dividend payment down 2.1 percentage points to 37.4 percent, according to the Korea Securities Depository on Wednesday.
Last year, foreign investors turned into net sellers of Korean stocks, snapping two straight years of net buying positions amid growing doubts about the Korean Inc. and its underlying economy. According to the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), foreign investors net sold 6.68 trillion won in Korean stocks last year. They net purchased Korean stocks worth 12.1 trillion won and 10.2 trillion won in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
The listed Korean companies’ total dividend payment for 2018 was 22.98 trillion won, 1.3 percent higher from 2017. The number of dividend-paying companies gained 12 on year to total 1,106 as of December 2018.
Foreigners saw their dividends from the benchmark Kospi slide 4.2 percent on year to 8.41 trillion won while their payout gained 4.5 percent in the tech-heavy Kosdaq to 180.3 billion won.
The number of dividend-paying firms on the Kospi was up 82 at 628 last year, with their payout 1.0 percent higher at 21.5 trillion won. In Kosdaq, the company roster fell by 70 to 478, but the payout 5.6 percent higher at 1.5 trillion won.
The Kospi index lost 17.3 percent and the Kosdaq 15.3 percent over the past year. But their dividend payouts increased 17.3 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively.
Semiconductor stocks, led by the country’s most valuable company Samsung Electronics Co., gave out the most dividends at 3.85 trillion won, accounting for 16.7 percent of all payouts. Holding companies came next at 2.96 trillion won (12.9 percent), followed by automakers at 1.16 trillion won (5.0 percent) and telecommunication companies at 1.12 trillion won (4.9 percent).
Samsung Electronics was the biggest dividend payer worth 1.41 trillion won. It was trailed by KB Financial Group Inc. (533.7 billion won), SK Hynix Inc. (524.5 billion won), Shinhan Investment Corp. (517.4 billion won) and Hyundai Motor Co. (425.2 billion won).
GS Home Shopping Inc. topped the list in the Kosdaq at 14.4 billion won. The top 10 Kosdaq companies paid out a combined 4.82 trillion won to offshore investors, an amount equivalent to 57.3 percent of Kospi payouts to foreigners.
U.S. shareholders were the biggest gainers, claiming 45.1 percent of all payouts to foreigners at 3.88 trillion won. They were followed by those from the U.K. (668.2 billion won) and Luxembourg (555.9 billion won).
By Chung Seung-hwan and Kim Hyo-jin
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