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KEPCO shares hit record high

Korea Electric Power Corp., the largest state-owned utility company, became the nation’s second-biggest company after Samsung Electronics in terms of market capitalization Monday, as its shares hit a record high of 52,200 won ($45).

KEPCO’s share price rose four consecutive trading days, lifting the company’s market value to 33.1 trillion won.

Hyundai Motor fell one notch to third place on the same day as its shares fell 1.5 percent to 91,400 won. The market value of the nation’s largest automaker stood at around 32.5 trillion won.

“The recent rise of KEPCO shares resulted from the reduced fuel costs in coal and liquefied natural gas, affected by falling oil prices, and the increase of profits from overseas businesses,’’ Ji Chang-young from KEPCO said.

KEPCO’s fortunes have been rosy since the power company’s operating income surged 82.5 percent to 2.23 trillion won in the first quarter this year.

Sales of the company rose 2.4 percent on-year to 15.12 trillion won for the first three months.

KEPCO’s quarterly performance results include earnings from its six subsidiaries, including Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, a state-run nuclear power plant operator.

Most market analysts recommend a buy for KEPCO in the second quarter as well.

“In contrast to large-cap stocks which have slumped, KEPCO appeals to investors based on the positive outlook for continued growth and profitability,” Yoon Hee-do, a stock analyst from Korea Investment & Securities said.

The power firm’s profitability has been improving in line with the growth of high-margin overseas power businesses, including nuclear plant construction projects and smart grid projects.

“As of 2014, the share of overseas businesses in its total revenue stood at 5 percent and the company expects to raise it to 15 percent by 2020,’’ Ji said.

The growth strategy increased foreign shareholdings to 31.6 percent as of July 31, a 2 percent increase from 29 percent at the end of 2014.

“With the goal of advancing to be one of the best energy firms in the world, KEPCO will secure new growth engines, while seeking shareholder-friendly corporate policies,’’ CEO Cho Hwan-eik said.

Under the leadership of Cho, KEPCO made a turnaround last year after 13 years, and he expects to maintain the same upward trend this year.

By Seo Jee-yeon (