South Korean companies defy Covid-19 by posting better profits

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The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) may have had a devastating impact on the global economy, but some South Korean companies racked up outstanding earnings during the first quarter of 2021.

Mirae Asset Securities, South Korea’s top brokerage firm, announced Friday that its first-quarter operating income amounted to $374 million this year, up 202.2 percent from one year ago.

The Seoul-based company’s bottom line is supported by retail investors, who have rushed to the bullish stock market across the world despite Covid-19.

Daewoong Pharmaceutical, one of the country’s top drugmakers, said Thursday its operating profit more than quadrupled to $20 million during the January-March period compared to a year prior.

Samsung Electronics’ first-quarter profit jumped 45.53 percent year-on-year to $8.36 billion. The chipmaker is South Korea’s biggest company in terms of market capitalization.

Samsung’s cross-town rival LG Electronics chalked up a $1.36 billion profit during the first three months of 2021, which is the company’s highest quarterly performance on record.

The country’s automakers, including Hyundai Motor and Kia, also did well this year.

“As the virus infection continues, some industries benefit. Electronic firms, carmakers and securities firms are expected to remain strong,” Daishin Securities analyst Lee Kyung-min told UPI News Korea. “Pharmaceutical firms are somewhat different. We are required to examine companies one by one. We cannot say that the industry will keep doing well.”

NH Investment and Securities researcher Kim Young-hwan agreed: “When it comes to the pharmaceutical industry, we need to take many things into consideration,” he said.

South Korea’s daily count of new, confirmed Covid-19 cases fluctuated between 500 and 700 this month. The country is also suffering from a shortage of coronavirus vaccines, with just 3 percent of the population inoculated as of last month.

However, even segments of the economy that were hit hard by the pandemic last year — including retail and cosmetics-related businesses – are showing signs of rebounding.

For example, Hyundai Department Store’s operating profit jumped more than four-fold to $58 million during the first quarter of 2021, compared to just $13 million a year before.

Amore-Pacific, the country’s leading cosmetics brand, also almost tripled its first-quarter operating profit from $61 million to $176 million compared to a year prior.

“The economy is rebounding across the board, although the virus pandemic has yet to finish,” Lee said. “Things are similar in other countries like the United States and Europe.”

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