Among the 18 listed companies that have announced their dividend plans as of Friday, 15 said they would deliver more to shareholders with their 2014 dividends to be paid standing at 1.84 trillion won (US$1.7 billion), up 38 percent from the previous year, according to disclosure filings by each firm.
Among them, NC Soft Corp., an online game developer, marked the highest year-on-year growth in dividend payout from 609 won per share to 3,430 won, raising its dividend payment by 5.7 times to 68.5 billion won for 2014.
The move comes as the government passed a law to tax corporate cash reserves that are in excess of a certain amount in a broader effort to encourage companies to spend more on wages, dividends and investment.
Korean companies have been stingy in paying dividends, a key reason why South Korean stocks are undervalued, with the dividend payout ratio standing at 22.4 percent, far below the average of 47.7 percent of other countries, according to the bourse operator Korea Exchange.
Market heavyweights are also set to raise the dividend payouts in line with the government policy to circumvent the higher tax rates and meet growing demands from shareholders.
Top automaker Hyundai Motor Co. last week said it will increase dividend payouts by 53 percent to 817.3 billion won, although its operating profit hit a multi-year low and its shares traded bearish last year.
Samsung Electronics Co., South Korea’s biggest firm by market value, is expected to unveil a near 40 percent jump in cash dividends during its fourth-quarter earnings announcement Thursday, which is worth about 3 trillion won, according to industry sources.
“Hyundai Motors announced a sharp rise in its dividend payouts although its operating profit fell to the lowest level in four years,” Im No-jung, an analyst at I’M Investment & Securities, said. “As companies have seen profits decline for several years, the environment is not so favorable for companies to expand dividends.”