Kospi dividends hit all-time high in 2017

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Kospi dividends hit all-time high in 2017

Dividend payouts by Korean listed companies reached an all-time high last year on the back of solid corporate gains, the country’s stock market operator said Thursday.

The aggregate dividend payouts by 537 out of 745 firms listed on the country’s main Kospi market stood at 21.8 trillion won ($20.3 billion) last year, up 4.3 percent from the previous year’s 20.9 trillion won, according to the Korea Exchange (KRX).

The amount rose from 11.1 trillion won in 2012 to 11.8 trillion won in 2013, 15.1 trillion won in 2014 and 19.1 trillion won in 2015.

The portion of companies that paid dividends to shareholders has also risen over the past several years from 62 percent of the total listed firms in 2002, to 63.4 percent in 2013, 66 percent in 2014, 66.8 percent in 2015 and 72 percent in 2016, according to the KRX.

Last year, shares of the companies that paid dividends rose 7.99 percent on average, it noted.

“Companies seem to strive to maintain investor-friendly policies in line with the state’s drive to promote the practice and growing interest in dividends among investors,” the KRX said in a release.

Korean firms have been criticized for being miserly in giving out dividends, thereby undervaluing their stocks. Accordingly, the government has been pressing corporations to return more to their shareholders to spur fresh investment and boost domestic demand.

But the propensity for dividends, measured by the percentage of dividends against net income, fell to 33.81 percent in 2017 from the previous year’s 34.46 percent, the data showed.

“The decrease is mainly attributable to the surge in corporate net profits last year,” said KRX official Choi Won-geun.

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