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SK Group, Hyundai Motor, Samsung: top 3 most-indebted conglomerates in Korea

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SK Group headquarters in Seoul / Courtesy of SK Group

SK Group headquarters in Seoul / Courtesy of SK Group

Creditors to examine their financial structures this summer
By Anna J. Park

SK Group was named the most highly indebted conglomerate in the country for this year, surpassing Hyundai Motor Group for the first time since 2021, according to the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) earlier this week.

The FSS released the names of 36 business groups categorized as highly indebted for this year based on their total borrowing amounts at the end of last year.

The country's banking supervision regulations stipulate that corporate groups whose total borrowings exceed 0.1 percent of the nominal gross domestic product of the previous year, along with other requirements in banking credit loans, are to be designated as indebted groups every year.

Based on the rule, the financial regulator listed the names of the 36 highly indebted corporate groups with total borrowings exceeding 2.16 trillion won ($1.56 billion) each, along with credit loans and guarantees from banks surpassing 1.3 trillion won, as of the end of last year.

Among major conglomerates, SK Group, which experienced increased borrowings due to the semiconductor industry downturn last year and escalated investments in batteries, overtook Hyundai Motor Group on this year's list. Following SK Group, Hyundai Motor, Samsung, and Lotte Group are ranked as the most indebted conglomerates.

Coupang (No. 28), Hoban Construction (No. 32), EcoPro (No. 34), and Celltrion (No. 36) are newly included in this year's list, while six others, including Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, have been excluded.

The list of highly indebted companies, whose borrowing surpasses specific thresholds, serves the purpose of enabling creditor banks to assess and evaluate their financial structures annually. This is crucial, given the substantial impact these corporate groups have on the national economy.

The annual evaluations by creditor banks occur between June and August. If the results are unsatisfactory, these groups are obliged to enter into agreements with bond-issuing banks, committing to enhance their financial structures.

The total credit loans from banks to the 36 designated groups amounted to 338.9 trillion won, up 5.1 percent compared to the credit loans provided to the 38 previously designated highly indebted groups from the previous year, totaling 322.6 trillion won.

Park Ji-won


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