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M&As up 49% in H1; big firms lead deal activity

This image, provided by Yonhap News TV, shows the exterior of the Korea Fair Trade Commission in the central administrative city of Sejong. (Yonhap News TV)
This image, provided by Yonhap News TV, shows the exterior of the Korea Fair Trade Commission in the central administrative city of Sejong. (Yonhap News TV)
The value of corporate mergers and acquisitions executed in South Korea rose 48.7 percent in the first half of this year, with conglomerates leading deal activity in a bid to identify new growth opportunities.

According to data released Sunday by the Korea Fair Trade Commission, a total of 489 deals have cleared the FTC’s review process in the first half of this year, with their total value amounting to 221 trillion won ($191.2 billion).

That is a 15.3 percent increase from a year earlier in terms of the number of deals made and a 48.7 percent jump in the transaction amount.

A noticeable growth was seen in the purchase of unaffiliated companies by those categorized by the watchdog as “large business groups,” the KFTC said. It said major conglomerates appeared to have sought takeover attempts or strategic investments in their quest to expand into new, promising frontiers.

Of the total 489 deals, 422 involved Korean companies acquiring either local or foreign firms.

Of that 422, 196 involved the KFTC-designated large groups with assets exceeding 5 trillion won, taking up a share of 46.4 percent.

Compared to a year earlier, when deals led by large groups stood at 105, that represents a growth of 87 percent, the watchdog said.

In 321 cases, or 76 percent, of the 422, a Korean buyer took over a company that is not affiliated with it, while the other 101 cases saw two affiliated companies merge for the purpose of streamlining or restructuring their business portfolios.

That 76 percent of the deals conducted by conglomerates had unaffiliated firms as the acquisition target suggests large business groups were actively making efforts to diversify their profit models or to acquire new growth drivers.

There were seven mergers that involved a Korean buyer and a foreign target.

As for deals by foreign companies, there were 67 integrations, with the total cost amounting to 190.9 trillion won, in the first half of this year, according to the KFTC.

The average size of a deal increased 35.3 percent from the same time last year, posting 71.5 billion won.

Setting up a joint venture was the most popular method of setting up a deal, accounting for 27.7 percent of all cases, followed by stake acquisitions at 23.9 percent and mergers at 19.4 percent.

The biggest mergers included AstraZeneca’s takeover of Alexion Pharmaceuticals, a rare disease drugs developer, and Advanced Micro Devices merging with Xilinx, an American tech company.

Eighteen Korean companies were integrated into foreign firms, and 49 foreign companies merged with another foreign company, according to the data.

In more than half of the integration cases, the companies that acquired another firm were from the service industry (334 cases) and manufacturing firms came in second with 155 cases.

By Jo He-rim (
Korea Herald Youtube