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Samsung shares slump amid leader’s release on parole

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong leaves Seoul Detention Center on Friday as he was allowed parole over bribery. (Yonhap)
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong leaves Seoul Detention Center on Friday as he was allowed parole over bribery. (Yonhap)
Shares of Samsung Group’s major units lost ground just as its de facto leader Lee Jae-yong was released on parole Friday, seven months after being return to prison for bribery involving former President Park Geun-hye.

Shares of Samsung Electronics, the group’s flagship company and world’s largest memory chip maker, closed at 74,400 won ($63.66), down 3.38 percent from the previous session’s close. The stock began trading at 1.43 percent lower and further dropped to hit its 2021 low of 74,100 won during the day.

Market insiders previously paid keen attention to whether the group affiliate stocks would gain momentum as Samsung Electronics vice chairman walks free from prison. Some experts forecast that the tech giant’s shares would soar again amid rising expectations of accelerating large investments and corporate mergers and acquisitions within the company of Lee and his global networks. But after the actual event happened, the stock prices tumbled.

It was the first time Samsung Electronics shares had been below the 75,000 won mark since the market closing of Dec. 23, when they traded at 73,900 won. The stock has extended its losing streak to a seventh-consecutive session mainly due to selling by foreign investors. They offloaded nearly 5.7 trillion won worth of Samsung Electronics shares from Aug. 5 to Friday.

Shares of Samsung C&T, the construction and trading unit, also lost 0.74 percent, at the closing bell. They started off 0.37 percent higher but fell to the negative terrain nearly 20 minutes before the de facto chief’s exit from the prison in the morning. Lee owns the largest stake -- 17.97 percent -- in Samsung C&T.

Samsung Life Insurance, in which the Samsung leader holds a 10.44 percent stake, retreated 0.39 percent to close at 76,200 won. The stock began the day flat at 76,500 won but it joined the downward trend with Samsung C&T.

As a result, the market capitalization of three main arms -- Samsung Electronics, Samsung C&T and Samsung Life Insurance -- slid to 484.4 trillion won in total, down 3.15 percent from a day earlier. Compared to the day after the Justice Ministry decided to set Lee free, the market valuation has fallen by 6.87 percent from 520.1 trillion won.

With Samsung Electronics’ preferred stock shedding 3.06 percent, most other Samsung affiliates slumped as well. Samsung SDS (1.96 percent), Samsung Electro-Mechanics (2.97 percent), Samsung Card (0.42 percent) and Samsung Heavy Industries (2.68 percent) all moved down at the closing.

Battery maker Samsung SDI, however, closed unchanged at 817,000 won, while Samsung Card and Samsung Biologics gained 0.15 percent and 1.13 percent, respectively.

An analyst at a local brokerage, who wished to remain anonymous, cited the de facto leader’s parole condition -- which bans him from working at the group for five years under the Act on the Aggravated Punishment of Specific Economic Crimes -- as the main reason for the declines in Samsung stocks.

The market watcher also mentioned that another reason that Lee is also facing two separate trials over the controversial merger of two Samsung affiliates and the vice chairman’s allegedly illegal use of the drug propofol.

Yet some experts were optimistic about the Samsung unit’s stocks. They saw risks as having eased now that the leader’s absence has ended, and expected the reducing uncertainty will eventually boost shares in the long term.

Another analyst said that “consolidation of the group’s corporate governance structure” centering around Samsung C&T and “Samsung Electronics’ growth momentum” were the key requirements for improving investor sentiment.

By Jie Ye-eun (