The combined operating profit of listed firms is estimated to have nearly halved in the first quarter, mainly due to a slump by chipmakers and other market behemoths, data showed on April 29.
According to the data, the combined operating profit of 40 listed firms is estimated at 15.5 trillion won ($13.3 billion) in the January-March period, down 46.5 percent on-year.
SK hynix reported last week that it posted an operating profit of 1.3 trillion won for the quarter, a 69 percent plunge from the previous year.
Samsung Electronics, which is set to release its first-quarter results, has signaled that its operating profit is likely to plummet 60.4 percent to 6.2 trillion won for the quarter.
The company expected its sales to fall 14.1 percent on-year to 52 trillion won for the first three months.
Chipmakers have been hit by slowing sales of smartphones and weaker investment by data center firms.
Samsung and SK hynix accounted for about half of the combined operating profit, according to the data.
The average ratio of operating profit to sales by the 40 firms stood at 6.97 percent for the quarter, compared with 12.76 percent a year ago.
Excluding Samsung and SK hynix, the average ratio came to 4.85 percent for the quarter, down 0.8 percentage point from a year ago, according to the data.
Major refiners and petrochemical firms also saw their operating profit tumble for the first quarter due to lower margins.
Top refiner SK Innovation said its operating profit slipped 53.5 percent on-year to 331 billion won in the first quarter, while sales rose 1.9 percent on-year to 12.4 trillion won.
LG Chem reported an operating profit of 275 billion won, down 58 percent from a year ago, due to the one-off cost of covering fire damage to its energy storage system equipment.
Automakers were the only bright spot in the sluggish first-quarter earnings, with Hyundai Motor seeing its operating profit gain 21.1 percent to reach 825 billion won.
Its affiliate Kia Motors said its operating profit jumped 94 percent on-year to 594 billion won.
By Ram Garikipati and newswires (firstname.lastname@example.org)