South Korean companies\' direct financing rose 19 percent in the first half of the year from a year earlier as more companies rushed to raise funds amid the central bank\'s interest rate hikes, the financial regulator said Sunday. Local firms raised 73.6 trillion won (US$70 billion) by issuing stocks and bonds in the January-June period, up from 62.1 trillion won in the same period last year, according to the Financial Supervisory Service. In the six-month period, equity financing reached 6.7 trillion won, up 34.8 percent from the previous year, due mainly to a rise in paid-in capital increases. No. 4 banking group Hana Financial Group Inc. raised 1.3 trillion won in February and No. 3 banking group Shinhan Financial Co. raised 1.1 trillion won in April. Corporate bond sales rose 17.2 percent on-year to 67 trillion won in the six-month period, the regulator said. The rise came as more companies rushed to secure capital to brace for interest rate hikes, the watchdog said. In the first half of the year, the Bank of Korea raised the key interest rate three times by a quarter percentage point each time in a bid to rein in persistent inflationary pressure.