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Premium liquor shares iffy amid frugality campaign


08:29, February 06, 2013

BEIJING, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- The liquor sector may have led rises in China's stocks at the end of last week, but a debate about the future prospects of drinks producers is making investors hesitant to inject funds.

With a government campaign against extravagance seeing boozy Spring Festival banquets canned across China, many are speculating that the frugality push will have a sizeable impact on liquor makers.

The contrasting opinions of two noted investment advisors on stockholdings of Kweichow Moutai encapsulate heated discussion over the profitability of major players who used to bring intoxicating returns to investors.

Dan Bin, a Shenzhen-based senior advisor, said on the Twitter-styled Sina Weibo, that Moutai will continue to be worth investing in for the next 10 years as the country's booming middle class demand premium alcoholic drinks.

Dan dismissed worries that the government campaign may greatly reduce liquor demand, by saying that consumption at official banquets has accounted for no more than 6 percent of Moutai's total sales.

However, Huang Sheng, another famous advisor, put the proportion of Moutai's sales attributable to official consumption at more than 70 percent. He predicted big drops in Moutai's shares as purchases by officials dwindle.

It is almost impossible to be sure in which direction the high-end liquor market is heading, but both investment experts, along with other investors, believe official consumption is a major factor as for years it has backed the bullish performance of liquor stocks.

In fact, liquor prices tell their own story. Moutai saw price drops of up to 30 percent late last year.

"Fewer people come to buy liquor than before after the ban," said a high-end liquor dealer who declined to be named.

According to a report issued by Moutai in January, an upcoming release of financial results for 2012 will likely show its net profit rose by 50 percent in the year to stand at 13.1 billion yuan (2.1 billion U.S. dollars), compared with a 73-percent growth in 2011.

Yuan Renguo, board chairman of Moutai, said the company will try to increase sales revenue in 2013 by 18 percent to 41.6 billion yuan.

This is a lower target compared with Moutai's former ambition as the company said last year that it aimed to rake in 50 billion yuan of sales revenue in 2013, and 100 billion yuan by 2017.

Wuliangye, another high-end liquor maker, estimated its 2012 net profit at around 9.5 billion yuan, up 54 percent year on year. Like Moutai, the company also toned down its 2013 target to a 30-percent growth in sales revenue.

Before the government ban on premium liquor, plasticizer contamination scandals at the end of 2012 also damaged the reputations of liquor makers.

Moutai, along with others under fire, suffered great losses in the country's capital market.

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