Lit craze dwarfs internet bubble

Editorial | Nov 9, 2017
China Literature turned out to be more than a safe bet on its trading debut - thanks to the branding effect of its parent, Tencent Holdings.

Priced at slightly above HK$102 a share as the first day of trading closed, those lucky enough to have been issued one board lot of 200 shares walked home with HK$9,480 profit in their pockets yesterday.

Smarter ones probably reaped more, since the share price had roared to a high of HK$110, although that only lasted a very short time.

The first day of the literary stock was full of drama.

Priced at more than HK$90 a share in the gray market on the eve of its launch, the first lot changed hands at HK$90 per share, as soon as trading on the local bourse began.

In about 15 minutes, it hit the HK$100 mark, before carrying on to touch the intraday high of HK$110 some 10 minutes later. It concluded the day at HK$102.40 - up 86 percent from its HK$55 listing price.

It's evident many small investors took profits on the first day, as they wised up to the fact that only money in hand is real.

The stock's debut was undoubtedly dramatic, beaming blinding light. However, the concern is whether the literary star can be a supernova that's bright, but doesn't last.

At its current price, books just can't be more expensive. Assuming China Literature's earnings for the first half is repeated for the second half, it would likely post a net profit topping 400 million yuan (HK$470 million).

That's surely an attractive sum for a writer, since - as the ancient saying goes - writing is the last career to consider if one wants to feed the family and be prosperous.

But for a company with a market capitalization now standing at nearly HK$93 billion, the sum would be too small to be meaningful for shareholders.

The exclamation by the firm's co- chief executives, Liang Xiaodong and Wu Wenhui, that they're now under immense pressure may best summarize the high-stakes game China Lit will be facing.

The price performance was phenomenal, and the two know it has to be backed by phenomenal business performance.

But can it, even though it's a subsidiary of internet giant Tencent?

China Lit is obviously no ordinary publisher. In addition to selling printed copies and charging readers for online content, its other major source of revenue is intellectual property licensing for adoption in film, television, game productions, and so on.

Its archives contain a number of best sellers. However, to sustain the current stock price, Liang and Wu will have to have more great authors like Jin Yong - the pen name of legendary kung fu novelist Louis Cha Leung-yung - and J K Rowling.

Great authors guarantee income. Unfortunately, literary work can't be factory produced, enabling Liang and Wu to set quotas.

Outstanding creativity is by chance, and the bigger the coverage, the greater the chance.

That can be a serious concern as uncertainty is the last thing to be wished for by a company whose shares are just as expensive.

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December 2018