The beleaguered South Korean economy, combined with a worldwide slump in memory chip prices, have hit the results of Korean giants Hyundai, Samsung and LG.
The world's largest memory manufacturer, Samsung, performed best of the country's chipmakers, with an increase in profit from $92 million to $113 million for the first six months of 1998. Sales for the half year also rose by 18 per cent to $7.9 billion.
Samsung was boosted by strong sales of telecomms equipment, said analysts, but semiconductor and consumer electronics sales remained weak.
Samsung also benefited from the weakness of the South Korean won against the dollar, which boosted its exports earnings.
But the other South Korean memory makers fared less well. Hyundai posted a $250 million loss for the period, compared with a $113 million profit last year. The loss came on sales up 63 per cent to $1.75 billion.
Also making a six-month loss was LG Semicon, which lost $188 million, against a $12 million profit last year. Again sales were up, this time by 42 per cent to $912 million.
A Coopers & Lybrand financial audit of South Korean company debt at the end of 1997 showed that many of the chaebols - notably Samsung, LG and Hyundai - owed banks billions of dollars.
The government of South Korea is still pushing these three companies to consolidate their business activities but so far they have resisted attempts to do so.
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