The possibility of a larger payout, which President Lee Won-hee revealed as the company reported its third-quarter earnings, helped Hyundai Motor shares to post their biggest daily percentage gain in two-and-half years.The company, which along with its affiliate Kia Motors Corp  is the world's fifth largest automaker, had earlier posted a 29 percent drop in its third-quarter net profit, slightly below analysts' estimates.

"To respond to the government's policy and to have a shareholder friendly policy, we are considering expanding dividends significantly and paying out an interim dividend from next year," said Lee, who is also chief financial officer. Dividend payouts in South Korea are among the lowest globally, and the government is considering taxes to change that.

Shareholders have punished Hyundai Motor since it and two sister companies bid $10 billion last month for a plot of land in Seoul's high-end Gangnam district to house a headquarters, theme park and shopping mall.The cost of the deal, more than triple the appraised value of the property, and sparked worries about the family-run Hyundai Group's governance. The group's plans to fund it with cash also dented investors' hopes for higher vidends from its listed units.

"Today's announcement helped ease shareholder disappointment after the property deal," said Kim Sung-soo, a fund manager at LS Asset Management, which holds Hyundai Motor shares. "There is room for Hyundai to achieve further growth although rising competition, a weaker yen and slowdown in China,Hyundai's biggest market, remain major risks," he said.

Before the dividend announcement, Hyundai Motor's stock was down than 30 percent lower so far this year, making it the worst performer among its global peers. Its shares ended up 5.9 percent on Thursday, a day after hitting their lowest levels in four years, partly due to investors concerns that its third-quarter profit may miss forecasts. It was the stock's biggest percentage gain since April 2012.
Hyundai is not alone in dangling the prospect of bigger payouts to ease shareholder pressure. In January, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, under pressure to appease investors who have berated it for hoarding the spoils of rapid growth, pledged to hand out even more profit after almost doubling its full-year dividend to a record USD 2 billion.The company, however, in July kept its interim dividend unchanged from last year.
Hyundai has struggled with increasing competition at home and abroad, as well as a stronger local currency which has reduced the value of its repatriated overseas earnings. Its revamped Sonata sedan, which the company had hoped would revive sluggish sales in the key U.S. and domestic markets, has been criticised as bland, especially compared to its predecessor. Lee acknowledged the new Sonata had "not kicked off to a strong start" but said Hyundai expected to boost sales through word-of-mouth.  He also said the company plans to launch new models with improved fuel efficiency with next-generation engines and transmission.

Lee forecast fourth-quarter earnings would improve sharply, largely due to the won easing against the U.S. dollar and better sales performance of newer models. The South Korean won rose to its highest levels against the dollar since the 2008 global financial crisis in the third quarter, the company said.


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