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Coronavirus dents market cap of major firms, exports

Business association calls on lawmakers to ease regulations


Major South Korean firms have suffered a sharp drop in market capitalization, losing a combined 266 trillion won ($207 billion) over the past two months since the country’s first confirmed case of coronavirus infection, latest data showed Monday.

Local corporate tracker Korea CXO Institute surveyed the share prices of 100 listed Korean companies -- the top five in 20 industries -- for the 60 days starting Jan. 20, until Friday.

Their market cap fell by 29.7 percent during the period, from 895 trillion won to 629 trillion won. Their share prices fell 32.8 percent on average.

The market value of most firms across 20 industries has plummeted.

The top five tech companies surveyed -- including the world’s largest memory chipmakers Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix -- fell from 465 trillion won to 379 trillion won.

The automobile, finance, petrochemical, information and communications technology, metal, steel and shipbuilding industries saw their market cap drop by more than 10 trillion won.

The nation’s exports are also expected to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 spread, according to the Korea International Trade Association.

A survey of 915 Korean exporters, showed that the export business survey index for the second quarter stood at 79, having fallen below 80 for the first time in seven years.

The index is an indicator of business sentiment in the export industry and is calculated by surveying 15 items, including export counseling, contracts, export costs and profitability. The baseline is 100, the maximum value is 200 and the minimum zero.

Exports of key items are expected to worsen: petroleum products (59.7), steel and nonferrous metal products (61.2), wireless communication devices (63.2), machinery (67.1), automobiles (71.2) and semiconductors (77).

The report cited sluggish overseas demand due to the coronavirus crisis, as well as the suspension of operations and disruptions in procuring raw materials due to transportation restrictions.

“Global sluggish demand and economic uncertainty will continue for the time being due to the global pandemic of the coronavirus,” said Kang Sung-eun, an analyst at KITA’s Institute for International Trade.

“The government and related agencies need to urgently coordinate policies to minimize the damage to exports,” Kang said.

On Monday, the Korea Enterprises Federation submitted a plan to the National Assembly to improve economic and labor regulations. Its proposals include lowering the maximum corporate tax rate to 22 percent and easing various regulations affecting companies to boost business vitality.

“Korea’s economic growth rate stood at only 2 percent last year and the real economy is in a state of emergency due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus infection this year,” the federation said.

“We have proposed to the National Assembly a legislative task to revive the nation’s economic rebound and corporate investment vitality.”

It said the maximum corporate tax rate should be slashed to the average level for members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, to boost corporate vitality and global competitiveness. It also called for the abolition of the minimum corporate tax system and easing mandatory business hours for large discount stores. 

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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