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Business winners abound after World Cup

kid on monitor
A child stands on a television monitor the day after the World Cup ended, with TV makers picked as an early winner  

By Alex Frew McMillan

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- The scores are in. Brazil vanquished Germany 2-0 on Sunday, in their first World Cup showdown (Match report).

The World Cup is of course about soccer. But who won in economic terms? How did the co-hosts, South Korea and Japan, fare?

Experts told CNN on Monday it will take months before the balance sheet and income statement come in. There are many early winners and losers.

"The only thing we're interested in is whether the events had an impact on consumer spending," Ryo Hino, a J.P. Morgan economist in Tokyo, told CNN on Monday.

"The evidence does not overwhelmingly suggest that it did."

Japan shirt gives Adidas the edge

Adidas now views Japan as the second-biggest sports-clothing market, after the United States. It made Japan's shirts and was a World Cup sponsor (full list).

But there are losers in every economics game. Buying a Beckham shirt may help Beckham. But it does not necessarily benefit Japan, or the United Kingdom.

In the soccer, Japan made it to the second round and South Korea made it to fourth place. So did Korea win more than Japan?

That currency doesn't trade with Tokyo-based economists.

"Just because Japan did well, is not important," Hino stated. "The question is, how long does that last? People go back to reality."

"You have to look at the situation consumers are in," he added. "Have you seen an improvement in their job situation or their income situation? No, they continue to deteriorate."

He spoke after Japan's tankan survey of business sentiment showed a record leap (Full story).

Tourism below expectation

Samsung has been promoting its flat-screen Plano television and its plasma screens heavily during the World Cup  

The World Cup may also be a negative. There are 20 expensive venues to fill. In Japan, a city such as Saitama will not be able to pack its stadium, Hino said.

The same holds true in Korea. The island of Jeju will not support its stadium, according to Terence Lim, head of Korean equity research for Goldman Sachs.

Jeju counted on a heavy fan base for China's second match (Full story). Tourism was below expectation in Korea.

"Japan is a much more popular destination for businesses and probably tourists," Lim told CNN on Monday.

Lim believes Korean companies won. His top two picks are electronics makers Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics.

Sales of their plasma screens and flat-screen televisions were strong in Korea during the tournament.

"This World Cup had great impact in terms of Korea's image to the world," Lim said. "Made in Korea may have some different meaning."

In Hong Kong's Times Square, Samsung salesman Larry Ho said sales during the tournament were the same.

In business, Korean executives invited thousands of guests to the opening game. They welcomed Japanese executives, who rode in sponsor Hyundai's cars.

Society itself the winner

cell phones
Cell-phone providers and makers of handsets also saw a boost in their stock price during the tournament  

"Japanese and Koreans don't feel comfortable about foreigners," Lim said. "Through this kind of big event, society itself will become more open to the rest of the world."

Certain losing teams blamed the referee. For tickets and hotels, the Japanese and Korean organizers have blamed FIFA.

Brazil won the final. But Korea, Japan and maybe Asia in general, are winners too. For business, soccer is a confidence game.

"My sense is that the people in Asia started to share at least some common ground through this World Cup," Lim said. "It's a feel-good kind of impact."




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