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Asia-Pacific’s Week Ahead (Mar 2-6): COVID-19 Is No Parasite at South Korea’s Box Office


Senior Market Analyst at Interactive Brokers

As some of South Korea’s communities face quarantine from the threat of COVID-19, theater chains across the country have generally seen fewer moviegoers lined up at the box office.

To date, more than 1,250 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the deadly new coronavirus that emanated from China, have been identified within the borders of South Korea, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

south korea box office receipts plunge YTD 2020

The figure, which represents the largest group of individuals infected with the potentially fatal respiratory illness outside of Mainland China, appears to be growing rapidly – up from a little over 30 over the past week or two. There have also been around 12 deaths associated with COVID-19 within the nation.

The escalating danger posed by the virus in South Korea has also prompted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to warn travelers that they should “avoid all nonessential travel” to the country, amid “limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas.”

The dire picture of South Korea’s battle with COVID-19 – from local quarantines to maximum virus-threat levels – has certainly hampered the nation’s ability to conduct critical global commerce, as well as carry on with domestic consumer spending.

While the country has been widely touted as the center of the semiconductor universe, with companies such as Samsung Electronics (KRX: 005930) and SK Hynix (KRX: 000660) fueling global advancements in consumer technologies, the country also appears to be facing a downturn in certain discretionary spending within its own domestic economy.

SOXX follows KOSPI lower

Recent attendance at its movie houses, for example, seems to have significantly dwindled — despite the country’s historic Best Picture win at the 2020 Academy Awards for Parasite.

In fact, box office receipts across the country have plunged by around US$52bn to date in 2020 compared to the same year-ago period, as evidenced by Box Office Mojo, amid prolonged fears about COVID-19 contagion.

Meanwhile, the lackluster performance is likely to provide a further sting to CJ Corp-owned CJ CGV (KRX: 079160), the country’s largest movie theater complex, which has already seen its third-quarter of 2019 revenue and operating profits fall 6% and 32% year-on-year to KRW 1,258bn and KRW 66bn, respectively.

CJ CGV under performs AMC

Against this landscape, investors will likely be weighing the impact from fears about the spread of the virus on South Korean (and global) economic growth, as well as the outlook for the chipmaking and traditional filmed entertainment industries, as the country releases its final fourth quarter of 2019 GDP results and gauge on inflation for February.

Monday, March 2

  • GDP (F-Q4’19)
  • Consumer Price Index (Feb)

In the meantime, select the Event Calendar option in the IBKR Trader Workstation for a full list of U.S. and global corporate events and earnings, dividend schedules, economic data, IPOs and more.

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Disclosure: Interactive Brokers

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