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Firms get shareholders' OK for appointments, future plans

A sizable number of South Korea's top firms listed on the main and tech-heavy exchanges held their annual general shareholders' meetings Friday and received approval for the appointment of corporate directors while outlining their plans for the future.

The Korea Securities Depository said a total of 497 listed companies whose fiscal year ended in December held their shareholders' meeting during the day.

The companies include 157 firms listed on the main bourse KOSPI, 322 companies on the tech-laden KOSDAQ exchange and 18 firms traded on the KONEX for small and medium enterprises.

The gatherings mark the third time that a large number of listed companies held shareholders' meetings en masse this month.

The first flurry of meetings took place on March 14, followed by another a week later.

Under South Korea's capital market and tax laws, firms must submit financial statements to financial regulators and stock market authorities within three months of their fiscal year and hold a shareholders' meeting to elaborate on business conditions and ask for approval on key issues.

The KSD said the number of KOSPI firms that convened shareholders' meetings represents 21.6 percent of the 725 companies listed on the country's benchmark bourse.

Companies belonging to South Korea's business conglomerates Hyundai and Doosan, along with KB Financial Group, received approval for key management decisions and the appointment of corporate directors.

Some, however, took flak from disgruntled investors for poor performance last year.

Doosan changed its articles of association to attract more investors and froze the maximum wages that can be given to its nine directors at 15 billion won (US$14 million).

Drawing in more investors would help the conglomerate deal with possible liquidity shortfalls and ease concerns over the debt ratio that still stood at 244 percent late last year.

In the case of Doosan Heavy Industry and Construction, the center of the conglomerate's energy and construction operations, shareholders passed a motion reconfirming top managers.

KB Financial and Hyundai Merchant Marines (HMM) opted to cut wage levels to reflect poor performance.

The wage ceiling for KB Financial was halved to 2.5 billion won with dividend payments of 500 won per share being finalized.

HMM, the country's No. 2 shipping line that has been struggling in a sluggish market, lowered the wage limit by 30 percent to 7 billion won.

Senior managers apologized for the company posting another deficit in 2013 and pledged to turn this around this year. The company, a flagship of the Hyundai Group, has been in the red since 2011.

Another Hyundai Group affiliate, Hyundai Elevator, the country's largest lift solutions provider, received endorsements on most motions, but was blocked from expanding its business sphere into industrial robotics and clean energy development.

The move was held up after its second largest shareholder, Swiss-based Schindler Holding AG, boycotted the voting process that requires two-thirds approval from shareholders.

Hyundai Engineering, an affiliate of Hyundai Motor Group, said its shareholders approved the merger with Hyundai Amco Co. and appointed Kim Wee-chul as the CEO. The new entity will officially be launched early next month and will emerge as the eighth largest builder in the country.

Public companies such as Korea Electric Power Corp. and Korea Gas Corp. also reported to stakeholders that they lowered their wage ceilings for directors.

"The cuts reflect government policy to cut back on spending by managers," KEPCO said in a statement.

In the case of Shinil Co., a leading producer of fans, an attempt by private investors to take over management failed, with the existing corporate leaders holding onto control.

“Compared to past shareholders' meetings this year's gatherings were more contentious with minority stakeholders contesting management and contributing to the freezing or lowering of wages of directors," an observer said. He, however, said that in most cases the wishes of the management have been reflected. (Yonhap)