SEOUL, June 22 (Yonhap) — South Korean businesses struggled to stay afloat amid new coronavirus-caused slump in the first quarter, either by borrowing more money or selling their assets to secure much-needed liquidity, a report showed Monday.

According to the report from the Korea Economic Research Institute (KERI), the outstanding debt owed by 623 listed firms here came to 386.7 trillion won (US$318.6 billion) as of end-March, up 20 trillion won from three months earlier.

The report is based on the analysis of financial statements from the firms that have released their first-quarter statements.

KERI noted the outstanding debt of the 623 firms had increased by about 5 trillion won every three months prior to the first three months of this year.

Of the total, about 5 trillion won came from fresh corporate bonds, while the remaining 15 trillion won came from fresh bank loans, according to KERI.

“The firms’ cash flows weakened, while their debt dependency increased due to unexpected shocks from the COVID-19 pandemic and low global oil prices,” the report said.

It added the airline, retail, tourism and shipbuilding industries had greater cash outflows than inflows in the January-March period, while the amount of cash inflows for the textile industry plunged to one-tenth of that from the same period last year.

By sector, the airline industry had its debt dependency rise at the highest of 5.3 percentage points from a year earlier in the first quarter, followed by the shipbuilding industry with a 2.3 percentage-point hike and the tourism industry with a 1.4 percentage-point rise.

The average debt dependency rate of the 624 listed firms came to 22.5 percent as of end-March, compared with 21.6 percent three months earlier, the report said.