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Airline shares plunge amid H7N9 bird flu scare

2013/04/08 11:52:21

Taipei, April 8 (CNA) Share prices of Taiwan's three major airlines fell Monday by the maximum daily percentage amid worries that an outbreak of a new deadly bird flu strain in China would stifle demand for air travel across the Taiwan Strait.

Shares of EVA Airways, China Airlines (CAL) and TransAsia Airways opened at NT$16.45 (US$0.5485), NT$10.9 and NT$13.45, respectively, all down by 7 percent from their closing prices prior to the April 4-7 Tomb Sweeping holiday.

With the number of flights and destinations increasing steadily in recent years amid improved Taiwan-China relations, cross-strait routes have emerged as the backbone of business for major Taiwanese airlines, market analysts said.

The airlines, therefore, have become the first casualties in the business arena of the H7N9 situation in China, according to the analysts.

EVA, CAL and TransAsia executives said they have reduced the use of eggs and poultry meat in their in-flight meals and have stepped up disinfection of their aircraft over avian influenza concerns.

CAL said it has introduced a high-end in-flight air ventilation system and is offering passengers free masks to help prevent the spread of any viruses.

As of Sunday evening, 21 confirmed H7N9 cases had been reported in China, with six fatalities, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

Taiwan's stock market opened sharply lower Monday after a four-day hiatus for the Tomb Sweeping Festival.

The weighted price index had shed 181.11 points, or 2.28 percent, as of 10:40 a.m., dropping to 7,761.24, lower than the seasonal moving average of 7,855.

In addition to the H7N9 bird flu scare, escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula also contributed to the bearish mood in the local stock market, dealers said.

(By Esme Jiang, Chao Hsiao-hui and Sofia Wu)
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