SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is considering a stock split, a company executive said on Tuesday, as sliding profits put pressure on the firm to keep investors happy.
Samsung head of investor relations Robert Yi told reporters the company had been considering a stock split for some time but it was too early to make a decision. A split would make Samsung shares easier to buy and could attract more retail investors.
"We acknowledge the sentimental effect of a stock split, but how big an effect such an action can have on the company's long-term value needs to be considered from a variety of angles," Yi said without offering specifics.
South Korean stocks tend to trade at a discount to those elsewhere due to weaker corporate governance, complicated cross-share holdings and low dividends.
The world's top smartphone maker has launched a $2 billion share buy-back program and promised to increase its 2014 year-end dividend by up to 50 percent in a bid to lift its share price and placate investors.
Samsung shares remain well off last year's peak of 1.495 million won ($1,380) after a string of quarterly profit declines, though the buy-back and planned dividend increase has helped them recover from multi-year lows.
The shares are still among of the most expensive in South Korea based on the trading price.
In addition to potentially boosting trading volumes, a split could also make the shares more volatile and invite greater investor scrutiny of the company's performance.
Arch rival Apple Inc saw its shares end up 37.7 percent last year, thanks in part to a seven-for-one split.
Analysts said Samsung, part of South Korea's biggest family-owned conglomerate, may be wary of driving its share price too high as the group prepares for a generational change in leadership.
"A higher share price will increase the inheritance tax burden related to Chairman Lee Kun-hee's Samsung Electronics shares," said Chung Sun-sup, head of research firm Chaebul.com.
"There's no incentive for Samsung Electronics to split the shares now."
($1 = 1,083.5000 won)
(Reporting by Lee Changho and Se Yong Lee; Editing by Tony Munroe and Stephen Coates)