South Korea sees gains for its infrastructure firms from joining AIIB
By Christine Kim and Choonsik Yoo
SEJONG, South Korea/SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea hopes its infrastructure companies will benefit from the country joining the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the finance ministry said on Friday.
Shares in some South Korean iron and steel products makers rose sharply, partly on hopes for new orders when the AIIB is operational and funding infrastructure projects, which is likely next year. Histeel Co 071090.KS rose 14.8 percent and Hanil Iron & Steel (002220.KS: Quote) was up about 6 percent by the afternoon.
"(The government) expects our companies to win many orders in areas such as communications, energy and transportation, where they have strength," Song In-chang, head of the finance ministry's international finance bureau, told reporters.
Seoul announced on Thursday it would seek to join the AIIB as a founding member, the latest U.S. ally to do so despite Washington's misgivings. China is South Korea's biggest trading partner and the two countries are set to sign a free trade agreement in the first half of this year.
China has set March 31 as the deadline for joining the bank as a founder member, which will be capitalized at an initial $50 billion to provide project loans to developing nations.
China's finance ministry said on Friday that Luxembourg has been accepted as a founding member, taking the number to 28. According to Seoul, applications from six countries are pending - Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland and South Korea.
The AIIB has been seen as a significant and possibly historic setback to U.S. efforts to extend its influence in the Asia-Pacific region to balance China's growing financial clout and assertiveness.
The major absentees in the region from the bank are Australia and Japan. Australia has said it is close to joining, but Japan remains cautious. Continued...