SEOUL, Aug. 19 (Yonhap) — Large South Korean companies’ investment surged nearly 16 percent in the first half of the year despite a fall in earnings due to the coronavirus outbreak, a corporate tracker said Wednesday.

Combined investments by 374 major businesses in Asia’s fourth-largest economy came to 43.3 trillion won (US$36.6 billion) in the January-June period, up 15.8 percent from a year earlier, according to CEO Score.

Samsung Group’s investment was the largest at 15.3 trillion won, up a whopping 64.8 percent from a year earlier and taking up 35 percent of the total.

Samsung Group, whose flagship is global tech behemoth Samsung Electronics Co., was the sole local conglomerate with investments of 10 trillion won or more among 64 business groups.

Auto giant Hyundai Motor Group came next with slightly over 4 trillion won, followed by telecom titan KT Corp. with 1.99 trillion won and POSCO Group with 1.7 trillion won.

Samsung Electronics was the single largest corporate investor with 14.2 trillion won as the company ramped up efforts to cement its top status in the global memory chip market and become a No. 1 system chip maker.

The surge in major firms’ investments came amid a plunge in their operating profit in the first half, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The combined operating income of the 374 companies stood at 30.4 trillion won, down 25.3 percent from a year earlier, with sales falling 3.7 percent to 651.9 trillion won.

Of the 64 business groups, 38 saw their first-half operating income worsen from a year earlier.

Samsung Group posted the largest first-half operating income of 9.6 trillion won, up 1.2 percent from a year ago. SK Group followed with 4.3 trillion won, trailed by Hyundai Motor Group with 3.1 trillion won and LG Group with 1.7 trillion won.