South Korea's top two automakers -- Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. -- lagged behind their overseas rivals last year in terms of dividend payout ratio, one of the reasons for their low valuations, data showed on Tuesday.
Hyundai Motor, the country's top automaker, paid 6.2 percent of its net profit to shareholders last year, higher than the 6 percent ratio posted in 2012, according to the data compiled by Meritz Securities Co.
Hyundai's dividend payout ratio, a percentage of earnings a company gives to shareholders in the form of dividends, has hovered above 10 percent since the mid-2000s, standing at 16 percent in 2004, 11.6 percent in 2005 and 17.5 percent in 2006.
But the automaker's dividend payout ratio fell to below the 10-percent level, reaching 7.3 percent in 2010 and 6.2 percent in 2011, the data showed.
Kia Motors, Hyundai Motor's smaller sister firm, paid some 7 percent of its earnings last year, a sharp drop from 20.5 percent in 2004, they showed.
In contrast, foreign automakers' dividend payouts were much higher than those by the two South Korean companies.
Toyota Motor Corp.'s dividend payout ratio stood at 29.5 percent last year, with the comparable figure for Volkswagen AG being 20.6 percent.
BMW posted a dividend payout ratio of 32.1 percent last year, and Ford Motor Co. paid 22 percent of its net profit to shareholders last year, the data showed.
"Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors are trading at bottom levels, given currency woes and a slowdown in sales," said Kim Joon-seong, an analyst at Meritz Securities. "But the two companies are highly likely to rise on a new policy."
Last month, Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan criticized the companies for piling up cash holdings, urging them to increase investments and dividends to create jobs and raise household income.
The Korea Exchange, the country's bourse operator, also said it will give incentives for companies to pay more dividends. (Yonhap)