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S. Korean biz groups' cross-shareholding ties dip

All Headlines 10:01 August 31, 2016

SEOUL, Aug. 31 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's family-controlled conglomerates have sharply reduced their cross-shareholding ties among affiliates over the past one and a half years in an apparent bid to streamline their complex governance structures, data showed Wednesday.

According to the data by corporate researcher CEO Score, eight conglomerates had 94 cross-shareholding arrangements as of last Friday, compared with 11 business groups and 459 cases at the start of last year.

The cost of unwinding their circular investment ties among affiliates has fallen by slightly over 1 trillion won (US$890 million) to 11.3 trillion won.

In order to control their business empires with a handful of stakes, owner families of South Korean conglomerates use cross-shareholding arrangements under which affiliates own one another in a circular way.

CEO Score attributed the tumble in circular investment ties to several conglomerates' efforts to dismantle or reduce them.

Three conglomerates -- Hanjin, Halla and Hansol -- completely ended their cross-shareholding structures by changing to a holding company system or disposing of shares. Lotte, Samsung and Hyundai Motor groups also cut such arrangements considerably.

Lotte, South Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate, reported the biggest drop to 67 cross-shareholding arrangements from 416 over the cited period. Top conglomerate Samsung cut the number to seven from 10, with that for leading automaker Hyundai Motor Group dropping to four from six.

The government has been urging conglomerates to unwind their cross-shareholding ties among affiliates as part of efforts to improve their governance structure and boost transparency. Currently, cross-shareholding restrictions are imposed on 52 business groups with assets of 5 trillion won or more.

In June 2014, the administration of President Park Geun-hye enforced a new law banning fresh cross-shareholding investments among conglomerate subsidiaries.

The ban, however, doesn't apply to existing cross-holdings ties in order to avoid a possible negative impact on the economy and huge financial burdens on conglomerates.

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