Sun, Dec 28, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Asia burns beef, gobbles up fish

OVERSHOOTING? REACTING TO NEWS ABOUT MAD COW DISEASE IN THE US A

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Cheng Jen-Hung, the secretary-general of Taiwan Consumers Foundation, holds a package of beef imported from the US at a news conference in Taipei, yesterday. The government has released a statement saying that American beef products already in Taiwan should be safe for consumption.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Asian fish processors such as Kyokuyo Co surged this week on speculation consumers will turn to seafood after tests showed a cow in the US contracted mad cow disease and amid outbreaks of bird flu and swine fever in South Korea. McDonald's Holdings Co Japan Ltd slid.

"Consumers probably won't enjoy eating chicken, pork and beef for the time being," said Kim Yung Min, who manages US$125 million at Dongwon Investment Trust Management Co in Seoul.

"For seafood processors, it's a good chance to see shares jump, though they are overshooting a bit."

Japanese steelmakers such as JFE Holdings Inc and Nippon Steel Corp rose after China, the world's largest steel producer, removed import tariffs on five types of steel products. Shipping companies such as Nippon Yusen KK climbed after the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported Japan's three largest will buy more ships to meet demand from increasing Asian trade.

For the week, Japan's Topix index rose 1 percent to 1018.47 in Tokyo. Fish processors, steelmakers and shipping companies were among the top ten percentage gainers of the index's 33 industry groups. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 1.3 percent to 10,417.41. The benchmarks rose for a second week.

The Morgan Stanley Capital International Asia Pacific Index, which tracks more than 800 stocks across the region, added 1.3 percent to 85.18, its fourth weekly advance in five.

The index is set for its first annual gain in four years.

Shares of Asian fish companies advanced as the US announced its first case of mad cow disease, which is linked to a deadly brain-wasting illness in humans. In Korea, thousands of chickens have been slaughtered after the government said bird flu is spreading, while swine fever was detected in the country.

Kyokuyo, which distributes seafood such as tuna, added 11 percent to ?168 this week. Maruha Corp, which sells seafood products such as raw fish and scallops, climbed 4.4 percent.

Dongwon Industries Co, South Korea's biggest maker of canned fish and processed seafood, surged by 18 percent for the week. Deep-sea fishing company Sajo Industries Co soared 74 percent this week, while rival Oyang Fisheries Co jumped 94 percent.

McDonald's Holdings fell 10 percent in the three days following news of the disease. Even though Japan's biggest fast-food chain gets all of its burger beef from Australia, investors are concerned Japan's ban on US beef imports will raise prices.

The Japanese government said that it will offer financial assistance and advice to small and mid-sized companies affected by the discovery of mad cow disease in the US.

The decision helped boost shares of some beef importers that slumped in previous trading. Yoshinoya D&C Co, a restaurant chain that serves bowls of rice topped with beef slices, yesterday gained 2 percent to ?153,000, snapping a two-day, 12 percent slide.

Nippon Meat Packers Inc, the nation's largest meat processor, yesterday added 4.8 percent to ?1,045, after losing 9.2 percent in the past two days.

The Topix Iron & Steel Index gained 5.4 percent this week making it the second-biggest percentage gainer after shipping companies. It has climbed 81 percent this year, making it the best-performing index among the 33 industry groups.

JFE Holdings, Japan's largest steelmaker by market value, jumped 6.7 percent to ?2,880. Nippon Steel, Japan's biggest steelmaker, advanced 3.7 percent to ?227.

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