Overseas real estate investment rises 20-fold

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Overseas real estate investment rises 20-fold

Mar 07, 2005

Korean investment in overseas real estate increased more than 20-fold year-on-year to $15 million in January.

The growth rate topped the list of monthly direct investment abroad according to a report released by the Export-Import Bank of Korea yesterday.

It was the first time investment in a single sector rose more than 2,000 percent, reflecting aggressive buying of buildings and land abroad by businesses and individuals.

Total outbound investment in January rose 25.6 percent year-on-year to $340 million during the month.

Other sectors overseas that saw significant rises in investment included a 16-fold gain by transportation and storage to $17 million, followed by 56 percent for farming and fisheries to $2 million, 43 percent in construction to $10 million, 19 percent in manufacturing to $134 million, 15 percent in telecommunications to $1 million and 12 percent in wholesale and retail to $115 million.

Among the sectors that experienced declines were restaurants and hotels, down 32 percent to $7 million, and the services industry that was down 23 percent to $17 million.

A sum of $187 million was invested in Asia, followed by $121 million in North America, $11 million in Africa, $10 million in Europe.

More than $10 million was poured into four individual projects, including Hyundai Motor Co.'s investment of $80 million in automotive wholesale and retail in the United States.

Separately, tighter reporting requirements are being considered to regulate how money transferred abroad is used.

The Ministry of Finance and Economy said last week that it is seeking to prohibit overseas remittances for people who send an amount that exceeds the legal limit and cannot present documents requested by authorities.

The government said the revamped regulation is designed to prevent the practice of Koreans taking capital out under the guise of remittances, overseas study expenses and account deposits when the real intention is to make real estate investments and buy country club memberships.

Banks are currently required to report to the National Tax Service if a client transfers more than $10,000 a year. But the government said it is thinking about lowering the yearly limit. There is no limit on the amount Korean nationals can send abroad but records documenting where the money came from and how it will be used must be submitted to the Bank of Korea.

In July 2004, the Financial Supervisory Commission penalized 77 companies and 89 individuals for failing to report overseas purchases of country club memberships and property.

Meanwhile, foreign investors' dividend remittances overseas in 2004 nearly doubled from a year earlier to $2.5 billion.

The Bank of Korea attributed the increase to foreign investors' growing interest in local blue-chip stocks, which pumped up last year's dividend repatriation to $2.49 billion from the previous year's $1.34 billion.

Foreign players own a combined 54 percent of shares in the top 10 companies listed on the main Korea Exchange, underlining their active role in Korea's equity markets.


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