|The entrance of Samsung Life Insurance's headquarters / Courtesy of Samsung Life Insurance|
By Lee Min-hyung
Samsung Group's two insurance affiliates offered the highest dividends last year in the domestic insurance industry despite a slight cut in the total returns offered amid pressure from watchdogs, data showed Friday.
The nation's major life and non-life insurers were expected to scale up their dividends on robust earnings in 2020 by cashing in on the nationwide pandemic fallout.
But they had to reduce their dividend payout ratios after financial authorities urged them to step up risk management and maintain financial soundness on lingering coronavirus-related uncertainties.
Abiding by the call, Samsung Life Insurance and Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance, the two insurance arms of Samsung, cut their dividend payout ratios and offered combined dividends worth 823 billion won ($733.2 million), down 1.7 percent from the previous year, according to data by corporate tracker CEO Score.
But they maintained their titles as insurance stocks offering the biggest dividends last year due to their unwavering leadership in the industry.
Of note is that Samsung Life and Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance rose to the higher ranks in terms of the total amount of dividends offered among the nation's 613 listed firms, according to the tracker.
Samsung Life moved up one notch from 2019 to 10th place in terms of dividend offerings last year, with Samsung Fire rising two notches to 14th place over the same period.
"The unexpected COVID-19 shock appears to have allowed the insurers to place their names higher in the rankings, with some other firms suffering from the aftermath of the pandemic losing ground to the Samsung affiliates," an industry source said. "The insurance sector is one of a few industries that suffered minimal shock from the COVID-19 pandemic."
Unlike insurance shares, banking groups have virtually been forced to place their names in the lower ranks, as they were under direct pressure from watchdogs to cut dividends.
KB Financial Group, the largest financial holding firm here by market capitalization, lowered its dividend offering by 171.4 billion won in 2020 from a year ago. The company ranked 6th on the list, down two notches from the previous year.