The shares of China’s entertainment companies crashed within minutes of stock markets reopening on Monday morning.
Many firms saw share trading quickly halted after prices moved by the 10% maximum daily limit allowed on mainland Chinese equity markets.
Film studio Huayi Brothers Media plunged 9.9% to RMB 3.81 per share. Wanda Film was down 10.01% to RMB 15.56. Enlight Media was down 10.03% to RMB 9.51. State-controlled behemoth China Film Group was down 9.99% to RMB 12.43, while shares in another state enterprise Shanghai Film Group were down a similar 9.99% to RMB 12.17. Zhejiang Talent was down 9.95% to RMB 4.98 per share.
The sharp moves are a delayed reaction to the sharp escalation of the coronavirus outbreak which caused the cancelation of all major film releases over the lucrative Chinese New Year period, and the subsequent closure of the nation’s 70,000 cinemas.
Stock markets in mainland China have been closed for more than a week, due to the scheduled four-day break from trading which authorities then extended by a further day. In that time, the extent of the virus outbreak has become significantly clearer, and it has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization.
By mid-afternoon more than 2,600 stocks had fallen by the 10% daily limit, according to Bloomberg financial data. “Investor panic quickly spread across the board and will be dominating the market over the short term,” said Yang Delong, chief economist at First Seafront Fund, told Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK.
On Monday morning, Chinese authorities confirmed 17,205 cases of the disease and 361 deaths. That makes it deadlier than the 2003 SARS outbreak. Incidences of the disease have now been discovered in more than 20 countries, and on Sunday the Philippines reported the first fatality outside mainland China. The victim was a Chinese national who had traveled from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
Chinese financial regulators have attempted to limit the most turbulent reactions in the stock markets, which are dominated by retail investors. Short selling of stocks has been suspended. And $174 billion of additional liquidity was promised. But by 11:15 a.m. Monday morning local time, the SSE Shanghai Composite Index was showing an 8.2% fall to 2731.12.
While the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets were closed last week, those elsewhere in the world have been open and had an earlier chance to absorb the virus news. The New York and NASDAQ exchanges are home to several of China’s Internet and tech stocks, including Baidu, iQIYI, Huya and NetEase. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange, which reopened on Wednesday after a two-day break, is the trading platform for several other Chinese entertainment and tech stocks including social media and games giant Tencent, ticketing firm Maoyan, and the Huanxi Media film studio.
The closure of cinemas is hugely damaging for film distributors and exhibitors, but some consumer entertainment activity is being redirected online. In early trade on Monday morning, Tencent shares rose by 0.8% to HK$376 apiece.
Box office over the Chinese New Year period was expected to have exceeded $1 billion. It is currently unclear how much of that been lost for good. “Lost in Russia,” anticipated to have been one of the biggest holiday blockbusters, has instead been released online. Comedy remake “Enter The Fat Dragon,” which was due to have released later, has also gone straight to online. But in both cases, rights owners hold out the possibility of a theatrical release at a future date.
This week is expected to reveal the postponement of several other film releases – both local and foreign titles – and a major rejig of the first quarter releasing calendar.