Celebrity effect creates a stir on bourses

13:37, November 10, 2009      

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These days, movie stars are creating a ripple, not on silver screens, but on the Chinese stock markets.

Two investors, sharing the same names as actresses Xu Fan and Deng Jie, are the third and fourth largest shareholders of Zhejiang Orient Co Ltd, a Shanghai-listed textile company, the company reported in its third-quarter report last week.

The two names immediately created a celebrity effect, with shares of Zhejiang Orient up 17 percent in the following two days and hitting the 10-percent trading limit on the third.

According to the report, Xu holds about 1.74 million shares and Deng more than 1.46 million shares. It said both investors recently increased their holdings significantly.

However, both the stars have denied involvement in stock trading, and the Chinese stock regulator, after investigating into the matter, said yesterday that the information in the report did not match the profile of the two actresses.

But the sharp movement in stock prices had already helped market speculators gain huge profits in a very short period of time.

Market insiders and analysts said that the celebrity effect could be a perfect vehicle for speculative capital to influence stock prices in order to gain quick dividends.

"Market speculators are happy to see this type of rumor, regardless of whether the shareholders are the real movie stars or not," Li Zhiqi, president of Beijing CBCT brand marketing institution, wrote in his blog.

The media reported that a thread was posted in an online stock community looking for accounts with names of famous film director Zhang Yimou and actress Zhang Ziyi and was willing to pay a yearly rent of as high as 50,000 yuan for each account.

Some analysts pointed out that it was not so much that the celebrities were playing the stocks as the stocks were playing celebrities.

The rumors of celebrity investment also triggered suspicion of insider trading among the public.

A Sina.com online poll showed that 61.1 percent of the 7,500 people it surveyed believed that insider trading was prevalent in the companies that had celebrity names listed as major shareholders.

"Insider trading is possible. Or, it can be just a coincidence used by market speculators," said Zhang Jianguo, a 60-year-old stock trader in Beijing.

"Creating topics and spreading rumors are the common tricks used by market speculators who have hot money in hand," he said.

The celebrity effect helping listed companies gain appeal among investors is not a new phenomenon. Listed firm Huayi Brothers' shareholders include famous director Feng Xiaogang and movie star Li Bingbing and Huang Xiaoming.

Yu Qiuyu, a well-known Chinese writer, also reportedly holds 1.5 percent of Shanghai-based Xujiahui Shopping Center's shares, which are valued at 67 million yuan.

"For us small investors who don't have sufficient information about the market, it's better to stay out," Zhang said. "It would be dumb to follow any investment that is just based on celebrity rumors."

Source: Xinhua
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