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Hyundai, Samsung and LG ready to swap

But will they swap DRAM businesses?

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Local newspaper The Korea Herald said Saturday that the top five conglomerates in South Korea will announce their plans to swap businesses on September 10. But there is still doubt whether Hyundai and LG will be ready to do much more than exchange minor businesses, putting further pressure on already enervated DRAM prices worldwide. Last week, creditor banks moved into the offices of Hyundai, Samsung, LG, Daewoo and SK, the top five chaebols in the country, and are expected to rush out a report recommending which subsidiaries should be spun off or sold. The week before, the government had extracted a letter of intent from the top five to exchange businesses between themselves. The reports from South Korea said that trade unions in the country warned that the economic reforms in South Korea could lead to as many as 300,000 personnel being laid off, which is sure to spark further labour unrest. Two weeks ago, there was a brief general strike as a result of earlier layoffs made throughout South Korean industry. September is likely to be a crucial month for the memory market as a result of the moves. While prices showed some signs of stabilising two weeks ago, last week memory distributors and manufacturers said that average prices of DRAM had fallen again. In September, the European Union is also likely to begin investigating the three South Korean DRAM manufacturers for alleged dumping, according to sources in the memory business. So far, Hyundai, LG and Samsung have all procrastinated about swapping their potentally lucrative memory businesses. Despite a severe drop in prices during this year and last, many analysts, and the influential Semiconductor Industries Association (SIA) have forecast that the long term outlook for semiconductors is good. ®

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