Lotte to raise dividend payouts to appease shareholders

SEOUL-- South Korean retail giant Lotte said Thursday its four affiliates will more than double their dividend payout ratios as the group pushes for a governance shakeup in the face of a string of troubles.

In their regulatory filings, the affiliates -- Lotte Chilsung Beverage Co., Lotte Confectionery Co., Lotte Food Co., and Lotte Shopping Co. -- said they will increase the dividend payout ratio, or the percentage of earnings paid to shareholders, to 30 percent from the current average of 12 to 13 percent.

The announcement came as the country's fifth-largest conglomerate pushes to set up a holding firm to revamp its governance structure amid a series of troubles at home and abroad.

In April, the board of directors of the affiliates passed a plan to split each of them into investment and business entities. Under the plan, the investment entities split from the four units will be merged into a holding firm that will control other business arms under its wing.

Lotte claimed that under the proposed governance structure, the group's cross-shareholding among affiliates will be reduced, thus making its governance structure more transparent and efficient.

But some minority shareholders have recently raised their objections to the proposed scheme, filing a petition with the National Pension Service (NPS), a key stakeholder for the four units.

They demanded the country's top institutional investor turn down the plan, saying the scheme hurts shareholders' value. The NPS holds stakes in each of the affiliates, ranging from 4 percent to 12 percent.

Lotte said the revamp will be confirmed at the four firms' shareholders meeting on Aug. 29. If approved, the new holding firm will set sail in early October.

The announcement propelled Lotte stocks on the Seoul bourse.

Shares of Lotte Shopping, a key affiliate, jumped 9.2 percent to 267,000 won on the main bourse, while the broader Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) advanced 0.57 percent.

Lotte Confectionery, Lotte Chilsung Beverage and Lotte Food also gained 1.02 percent, 1.99 percent and 2.21 percent to hit 198,500 won, 1,534,000 won and 600,000 won respectively. The announcement on dividend payouts was delivered before the market closed.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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