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Foreign ownership of listed shares drops to 8-month low

The combined foreign ownership of shares listed on South Korea's main bourse fell to an eight-month low as of Tuesday, apparently due to the protracted economic slowdown, data has showed. 

Overseas investors held 34.02 percent of the total market value, marking the lowest number since 33.98 percent tallied in September last year, according to the Korea Financial Investment Association data that came out Thursday.

Foreigners' presence on blue-chip exporters fell, with their stakes in Samsung Electronics Co., the world's No. 1 handset maker, falling to 49.16 percent on Tuesday, compared to 50.4 percent tallied in end-April.

No. 1 carmaker Hyundai Motor Co. saw foreign holdings fall 2.13 percentage points to 43.72 percent over the cited period. Overseas investors' presence in top steelmaker POSCO also moved down 0.27 percentage point to 51.52 percent.

Market watchers said the decline came as the country's benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) continued to remain stagnant compared to global peers, making foreigners seek other investment destinations.

The sluggish growth came as North Korea has been issuing threats in response to military drills conducted by the United States and South Korea, and the weak yen also sounded alarm bells for local exporters.

In contrast, foreigners increased their presence in the tech-heavy KOSDAQ market this month, accounting for 8.5 percent of the combined market capitalization, compared to 8.23 percent tallied in end-2012.

Market watchers said the increase came as investors' appetite for shares on the secondary market was buoyed by expectations that the new government will bolster support for small- and medium-sized firms.

President Park Geun-hye, who took office in February, has vowed to boost small and medium enterprises in the country where family-controlled conglomerates dominate the economy. (Yonhap News)