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Korean SMEs Picking Up Steam   

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Domestic manufacturing SMEs appear to have entered a recovery phase. It was found that their sales and facility investments had risen slightly, along with improvement in the profitability and financial health of individual enterprises as well.

According to a fact-finding survey involving 10,000 SMEs conducted by SMBA on December 13, their total sales recorded 479 trillion won, year-on-year growth of 4.8%. The cash payment ratio also increased 3.3 percentage points to 80%.

In the same period, the average facility investment for machinery and equipment per enterprise increased 14.5% year-on-year to 98 million won, and technical development investment rose by about 11 million won to 188 million won.

The profitability and stability of the surveyed SMEs also improved. With the growth of operating profit outpacing that of sales, the ratio of operating profit to net sales was 5.61%. The health of their financial structure also improved more or less, including decreases in debt ratio and increases in own capital ratio.

Although some indicators, such as sales growth, total asset growth and added value ratio, reflecting the growth potential and productivity of manufacturing SMEs, slowed compared with last year, the atmosphere can be regarded as a positive trend when the characteristics of the global economic recession in 2008 is taken into consideration, experts pointed out.

Deputy General Manager Sung Ki-Chang of the Research & Statistics Team, Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business (Kbiz), said, "Considering the fact that various economic indicators surged sharply last year due to steady increases in raw materials and oil prices and the instability of exchange rates, certain aspects of the growth trend may appear to have slowed. However, if the indicators can be maintained at this year's level, it can be regarded as a growth trend."

According to results of the survey, meanwhile, the total number of employees at manufacturing SMEs decreased slightly year-on-year to 2.07 million, but the average number of employees per enterprise increased by one person to 18.6. Among the surveyed SMEs, the total number of employees at enterprises engaged in knowledge and service businesses increased 24,000 in the same period to 396,000.

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