Samsung, SK, Lotte fail to offer data in English
By Park Si-soo
Foreign investors are a crucial centerpiece to uphold Korea Inc. Yet many big firms here that harnesses large portions of foreign capital have only issued regular disclosures in Korean, leaving offshore investors helpless until they can access the English (or other language) version of critical information prepared by private agencies.
Observers point out that the country’s law on corporate disclosure is also problematic. By law it’s mandatory for local firms to issue corporate disclosures in Korean and post them on the Financial Supervisory Service’s (FSS) website. Providing such information in a foreign language is optional.
“No companies have submitted their quarterly report (to the FSS) in English or any other foreign language,” said an FSS official in charge of corporate disclosure.
The Korea Times reviewed the latest quarterly disclosures on the sales of nine big companies, issued between later April and early May, and checked their English-language websites to learn how quickly they offered the data in foreign languages, ensuring equal accessibility to such critical information for investment _ regardless of language and without the help of language specialists.
The nine conglomerates are SK Group, GS Group, LG Group, Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, Lotte Group, POSCO and Hyundai Heavy Industries.
Of them, only Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, and Hyundai Heavy Industries published their sales records during the first quarter of this year in both Korean and English, and released them at the same time on their websites.
The English websites of the remaining six firms contained no English version of the latest quarterly report or at best, just outdated reports that were issued as long ago as 2010 in a fast-changing, fast-paced business arena.
Surprisingly, Samsung Electronics had no online repository for the technology giant’s financial statements and sales records.
“Every single piece of financial data of a company, including its quarterly disclosure on sales, is extremely important information for all investors. It should be delivered to all investors equally,” said Oh Hyun-seok, a senior researcher at Samsung Securities. “With little English data presented, however, foreign investors have no choice but to buy real-time translation services from private agencies or language specialists.”
SK Group celebrated record high quarterly exports in its latest disclosure on Monday. This means more profit for the group is generated abroad and this trend will eventually attract the attention of more overseas investors.
But the group’s latest quarterly figures were solely in Korean.
“We have never published our quarterly disclosure in English or other foreign languages,” an SK Group representative said.
The latest financial data available on SK’s English website was a summarized balance sheet and income statements for the year 2010.
Other major conglomerates, including GS Group, LG Group, Lotte and POSCO, were in the same situation. They are running their own English websites but only outdated financial reports and performance data initially published in 2010 and 2011 is available.
The authorities have no plan to revise the law to mandate firms to issue regular reports in multiple languages.