Asia report: Markets lower as Samsung executives offer to resign
Markets in Asia were mostly lower on Friday, with investors turning their attention to Samsung Group after reports emerged that some of its executives had offered to resign amid the presidential cash-for-influence scandal.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was down 0.45% at 19,283.54, with the yen trading relatively stronger - it was last ahead 0.27% on the greenback at JPY 112.31 per $1.
That stronger currency put pressure on the major exporters, with Honda down 0.48%, Sony losing 0.83% and Toyota 0.77% softer.
Shares in beleaguered technology firm Toshiba added 4.14% after spending the session bobbing above and below the line.
Investors were trying to make sense of reports on Thursday that South Korean company SK Hynix was still interested in Toshiba’s valuable memory chip business, but only if Toshiba was willing to offer up a larger stake.
Toshiba was also forced to respond to reports that its acquired, struggling US nuclear division Westinghouse was looking to file for court protection stateside.
The company said it was not aware of any such plans.
On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite was up 0.05% to 3,253.03, while the Shenzhen Composite was up 0.42% at 2,000.37.
South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.64% to finish the day at 2,094.12.
The country’s Yonhap news agency reported that two senior executives at the Samsung conglomerate had offered up their jobs in a bid to shoulder responsibility for the group’s involvement in the cash-for-influence scandal surrounding impeached President Park Geun-hye.
Prosecutors had identified the pair as suspects as part of their investigation, which led to the arrest of Samsung chief Jay Lee last week, the reports continued.
Samsung Electronics, the jewel in the conglomerate’s crown, announced a number of new policies on Friday to improve transparency in their donations and financial support for activities related to their ‘corporate social responsibility’ functions.
The firm said any donations and funding over KRW 1bn would be publicly disclosed, and would require the approval of the board.
A further report suggested Samsung Electronics was planning a shareholder meeting for 24 March.
Shares in the group’s various arms finished mostly lower, with Samsung Electronics down 2.5% and Samsung SDI off 0.4%, although Samsung C&T added 0.8%.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down 0.62% at 23,965.70.
The red Friday in Asia came on the back of a mixed finish on Wall Street overnight, after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin gave some clarity on the “significant” tax reforms promised by President Trump.
“We want to get this done by the August recess,” he told CNBC.
“We've been working closely with the leadership in the House and the Senate and we're looking at a combined plan.”
Oil prices were lower, with Brent crude last down 0.8% at $56.13 and West Texas Intermediate losing 0.7% to $54.07.
In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.79% to 5,738.98, led lower by the materials subindex, which fell 2.09%.
The major miners were all lower, with BHP Billiton down 3.02%, Fortescue Metals losing 3.38% and Rio Tinto down 4.15%.
New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 lost 0.4% to settle at 7,058.59, led lower by local retail giant The Warehouse Group, which slipped 2.6%.
The retailer had announced plans to shed 1.1% of its workforce on Thursday, in a bid to save NZD 20m a year as it slims down its operation.
Both of the down under dollars were weaker, with the Aussie last off 0.39% at AUD 1.3012 against the greenback and the Kiwi retreating 0.28% to NZD 1.3870.