UPDATE 1-S.Korea firms put $433 mln into Bear Stearns

martes 18 de marzo de 2008 03:46 CET

(Adds details from statement)

SEOUL, March 18 (Reuters) - Total investments by South Korean banks, brokerages and insurers in former Wall Street giant Bear Stearns BSC.N stand at 443.1 billion won ($432.7 million), financial regulators said on Tuesday.

Their exposure is in the form of bonds, derivatives and equity-linked securities issued by the U.S. investment bank, the Financial Services Commission and the Financial Supervisory Service said in a joint statement.

Bear Stearns became one of the biggest casualties yet in the widening credit crunch that has slammed global markets, after JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N: Cotización) late on Sunday said it would buy the stricken rival for a rock-bottom price of $2 a share. [ID:nL17118660]

The regulators, however, played down the impact on domestic financial services firms of the fire sale of Bear Stearns, saying that JPMorgan would take over the debt or liabilities.

"The amount is not too big in terms of size, compared with local companies' exposure to subprime mortgage-related assets," the statement added. South Korea's subprime-related exposure stood at $1.1 bln at end of 2007, but the value shrank to $350 mln after write-offs.

Regulators will keep a close watch on market conditions and check on companies' exposure to other financial services firms.

Equity-linked securities bought by South Korean brokerage firms accounted for almost half of the total of 443.1 billion won, followed by insurance companies that have put 192 billion won in bonds and derivatives issued by Bear Stearns. Banks accounted for the the remainder of 40 billion won. ($1=1023.9 Won) (Reporting by Kim Yeon-hee; Editing by Keiron Henderson & Louise Heavens)