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Seoul: Won edges down, stocks rise as Samsung verdict looms

[SEOUL] The South Korean won inched down on Friday while shares edged up as investors awaited a court ruling in the bribery trial of Samsung Electronics vice chairman Jay Y. Lee later in the day.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (Kospi) was up 0.2 per cent at 2,380.48 points.

Samsung Electronics skidded 0.7 per cent after opening slightly higher.

"It is mostly profit-taking by foreign investors that is dragging Samsung Electronics shares down," said Seo Sang Young, a stock analyst at Kiwoom Securities.

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Mr Seo added that market players are aware that the company has been doing well even with the absence of its vice chairman.

But some investors worry that a possible conviction and long jail term could leave a leadership vacuum, with no one to take the big decisions at Samsung, which has over five dozen affiliate companies and assets of 363.2 trillion won (S$438.77 billion).

Its listed companies make up around 30 per cent of the market value of South Korea's Kospi index.

Lee, 49, has been in detention since February, on trial for charges ranging from embezzlement to perjury in a scandal that prompted the ouster of the country's ex-president Park Geun Hye.

Whatever Friday's verdict, lawyers expect an appeal which could go all the way to the Supreme Court, with a final ruling probably next year.

Other Samsung group shares were mostly on the rise. Samsung Biologic rose 3.8 per cent, after its version of arthritis drug Humira with its joint venture partner Biogen was approved by European Union regulators.

Samsung Heavy gained 5.1 per cent after it won an order worth 309 billion won.

Investors were also wary ahead of the US Federal Reserve's weekly central banking conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which could offer hints about global monetary policy.

"Market players cannot but stay cautious as it is quite hard to predict what would come out from either (Fed Chair) Janet Yellen or (European Central Bank President) Mario Draghi's speeches at the meeting," said Jung Sung Yoon, a foreign exchange analyst at Hyundai Futures.

Offshore investors purchased a net 34.9 billion won of Kospi shares near mid-session.

Advancers outnumbered decliners 415 to 348.

The won stood at 1,130.3 against the US dollar as of 0226 GMT, down 0.2 per cent compared to Thursday's close of 1,127.9.

September futures on three-year treasury bonds gained 0.13 point to 109.24.