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Banking giants set to deliver record dividends

Dec. 20, 2021 - 18:08 By Choi Si-young
South Korea’s four major bank holding firms are expected to hand out record-high dividends this year amid their highest net profit estimates buoyed by pandemic recovery, officials said Monday.

The total dividends the four companies -- KB Financial Group, Hana Financial Group, Shinhan Financial Group and Woori Financial Group -- would pay is estimated to be 3.8 trillion won ($3.2 billion), about 26 percent of the combined net profit of 14.6 trillion won.

“We were asked to refer to 2019, when we used about the same 26 percent of the net income for dividend payments,” an official with knowledge of the matter said, referring to financial authorities, which routinely recommend a cap on dividend payouts from bank holding companies.

Since 2015, the cap had stayed between 23 percent and 24 percent, except in 2020, when it dropped to an all-time low of 21 percent because the four companies were advised to limit cash outflow amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest push to step up dividend payments is part of broader efforts to raise the cap to 30 percent of the net profit to better compensate and attract shareholders.

Meanwhile, foreign ownership of stocks in the four companies showed an on-year rise on bets local banking and financial stocks would pick up speed next year as the Bank of Korea is set to carry out another rate hike soon.

As of Monday, foreign ownership was highest in KB Financial Group at 69.62 percent, up from 65.36. percent from the previous year. Hana Financial Group came in second at 67.42 percent, up from 65.03 from the same period.

Shinhan Financial Group and Woori Financial Group came in third and fourth at 60.34 percent and 30.03 percent, respectively. In December last year, the figure was 57.06 percent and 24.84 percent for Shinhan and Woori.