SEOUL, Nov. 18 (Yonhap) — Capital spending by large South Korean firms rose more than 10 percent in the first nine months of the year despite lower sales due to the coronavirus pandemic, data showed Wednesday.

Combined investments by 362 big businesses in Asia’s fourth-largest economy came to 63.2 trillion won (US$57.1 billion) in the January-September period, up 10.3 percent from a year earlier, according to the data from corporate tracker CEO Score.

The solid increase came as their total sales fell 4.5 percent on-year to 969.7 trillion won due mainly to the pandemic fallout, with operating income dipping 3.9 percent to 53.5 trillion won.

Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s top smartphone and memory chip manufacturer, led the overall increase in big business investments.

During the nine-month period, Samsung Electronics poured 20.9 trillion won to expand its chip production capacity, accounting for 33 percent of the total.

Excluding Samsung Electronics, total investments by large companies stood at 42.4 trillion won in the first three quarters, down 4.5 percent from a year earlier.

Another chip giant, SK hynix Inc., came next with 5.8 trillion won, followed by leading automaker Hyundai Motor Co. with 2.7 trillion won and major telecom operator KT Corp. with 2.5 trillion won.

Hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the combined workforce of the 362 companies totaled 1,080,047 as of the end of September, down 0.8 percent from a year earlier, according to the data.

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