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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

SEOUL, March 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's top 10 conglomerates saw their investment in real estate climb 6.6 percent in 2012 from the previous year, data showed Monday, apparently as they sought to make profits from leasing their property amid an economic slowdown.

A total of 92 listed companies affiliated with the country's family-controlled conglomerates, known as chaebol in Korean, owned real estate worth 13.61 trillion won (US$12.2 billion) for investment purposes at the end of last year, compared with 12.77 trillion won a year earlier, according to data compiled by Chaebul.com, which tracks the country's conglomerates.

The companies owned land and buildings worth 7.25 trillion and 6.35 trillion won last year, respectively, generating 810 billion won in profits through leasing their real estate.

Jeong Sun-sup, head of Chaebul.com, attributed the conglomerates' increased investment in real estate to relative high earnings rates compared with interest rates of banks and stability of asset value.

Samsung Group, South Korea's largest conglomerate whose businesses range from electronics, construction, insurance and clothing to amusement parks, owned real estate worth 5.29 trillion won last year, up 10.5 percent from 2011. The investment generated 287 billion won in profits for Samsung.

Samsung is followed by Hanwha Group with 2.43 trillion won worth of real estate.

GS Group, South Korea's seventh-largest conglomerate, owned real estate worth 1.5 trillion, up 25.7 percent from 2011, according to the data.

Meanwhile, SK Group, South Korea's third-largest conglomerate whose businesses range from mobile communications to oil refinery, reduced its investment in real estate by 13.7 percent to 449.1 billion won during the cited period.

Retail giant Lotte Group, South Korea's fifth-largest family-controlled conglomerate whose businesses range from department stores and discount stores to hotels and fast food restaurants, decreased its real estate investment by 3.9 percent to 1.03 trillion won during the period.

President Park Geun-hye is critical of chaebol's investment in real estate, telling top business leaders in December that the excessive purchase of real estate by chaebol is not the proper role of companies.

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