biz groups-wealth concentration

SEJONG, April 1 (Yonhap) -- Profits and sales of South Korea's top four business groups have grown much faster than their smaller competitors over the past five years, a report showed Monday, indicating a further concentration of wealth in a small number of top-tier conglomerates.

According to the report by the Fair Trade Commission (FTC), the four -- Samsung, Hyundai Motor, SK and LG -- saw their combined net profit account for 79.8 percent of the total racked up by the country's 30 largest conglomerates this year. This is up from 70.5 percent tallied in 2009.

Since 2009, their combined sales have also grown at an annual average rate of 16.9 percent, faster than the 14.5 percent for those ranking fifth through 10th and 7.7 percent for those ranking 11th through 30th, the report showed.

As a result, the sales of the top four made up 53.2 percent of the total this year, up from 49.6 percent in 2009, the report showed.

Over the past five years, their assets expanded at an annual average rate of 19.8 percent, compared with 11.9 percent and 10.6 percent gains tallied for the business groups belonging to the subsequent two lower categories.

The faster growth resulted in raising the ratio of their combined assets from 49.6 percent in 2009 to 55.3 percent this year, the report showed.

Meanwhile, their financial status also remains in relatively better shape. The average debt ratio of the top four conglomerates stood at 67 percent this year, which is lower than 96.5 percent and 141.9 percent for those belonging to the lower two categories, according to the report.

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