South Korean Financial Giants Grapple with $749m Losses

South Korea’s largest financial institutions are facing substantial losses totalling around 1 trillion won ($749 million) from their overseas real estate ventures, as per revelations from an opposition party lawmaker. The disclosure underscores mounting concerns regarding the sector’s vulnerability to declining property valuations on a global scale.

According to data compiled by Yang Kyung-sook of the Democratic Party, Hana Financial Group Inc. emerges with the most significant exposure, with over 6.2 trillion won invested outside the country. This information, initially reported by local media outlets including Yonhap, is based on disclosures made by the companies in mid-January.

KB Financial Group Inc. follows closely with 5.7 trillion won of investments, while Shinhan Financial Group Co., Ltd. has committed 4 trillion won. Woori Financial Group Inc. and Nonghyup Financial Group Inc. complete the top five with their overseas real estate holdings.

Credit investors in South Korea are on high alert following the closure of a branch of one of the nation’s major credit unions last year due to losses incurred from real estate-related loans. Concerns about the potential impact of a commercial real estate downturn in the United States have been exacerbated this year, particularly after Tokyo-based Aozora Bank Ltd. shocked the market by setting aside significant provisions for bad loans despite earlier assurances of being adequately prepared.

Reports from the Korea Herald and other local media outlets suggest that the initial investment of 10.44 trillion won made by the five financial firms through alternative vehicles like beneficiary certificates and funds has now depreciated to 9.34 trillion won, reflecting a loss of approximately 10.5%.

The revelation of these losses underscores the challenges faced by South Korean financial institutions in navigating volatile global real estate markets and highlights the need for vigilant risk management strategies in an increasingly uncertain economic environment.

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