SEOUL, March 6 (Korea Bizwire) – Stocks of major retailers and their affiliates with business ties to China continued to plunge Monday, as Beijing has intensified its measures against South Korea in what appears to be retaliation for the deployment of an advanced U.S. anti-missile battery.
Lotte Shopping Co., a key unit of retail giant Lotte Group, finished down 0.47 percent to 211,000 won (US$182) on the main KOSPI index, extending its losing streak for a fifth consecutive session. It has plummeted 9.7 percent since Feb. 27.
Another affiliate, Lotte Confectionery Co., shed 1.02 percent to 194,500 won.
“Lotte Shopping has been on the front line of the THAAD retaliation, casting a cloud of uncertainties over its flagship duty-free and overall business in China, from which other players like Shinsegae and E-mart are not free,” said Ahn Ji-young, an analyst at IBK Securities Co.
Lotte has turned into one of the biggest victims after Seoul finalized a deal with Washington late last month to station a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery on a site that was once Lotte’s property, until the retailer handed it over to the government early this month.
As of late Monday, Lotte said 23 Lotte Mart stores operating in China have now been put under business suspension for at least a month due to a breach of fire regulations. That adds up to over one-fourth of its some 120 stores currently running in the world’s second-largest economy.
Industry watchers have raised the specter that the number of stores to face a forced temporary shutdown could increase going forward.
The latest suspension came only a day after the authorities told Lotte to halt operations at four of the same retail outlets.
Its official Chinese-language website (www.lotte.cn) has been shut down for nearly a week since Feb. 28 due to suspected cyber hacking. On March 1, the online and mobile sites of Lotte Duty Free in the Korean, Chinese and Japanese languages were down after being attacked by a distributed denial of service (DDoS).
Lotte depends heavily on China for its sales, with more than 70 percent of some 6 trillion won in annual revenue from duty-free sales generated from Chinese tourists last year. The group raked in about 3 trillion won in annual sales from China alone in 2016.
Shinsegae Inc., Lotte’s archrival, fell 1.63 percent to close at 180,500 won. It has recently joined the race in the duty-free business, opening new stores in major districts in Seoul as part of an expansion aimed at luring deep-pocketed Chinese customers.
Shares of Hotel Shilla Co., a major operator of hotel chains and a latecomer in the duty-free industry, rebounded to gain 0.68 percent to 44,100 won, amid growing worries about the repercussions stemming from the THAAD deployment.
Cosmetics firms, whose bulk of foreign sales also come from China, managed to cap further losses, with top player Amore Pacific closing up 3.38 percent to 260,000 won and LG Household & Health Care slipping 1.4 percent to 782,000 won. Their shares were hammered by 17.8 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively, over the last week.