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China’s craze for Eileen Gu is spilling over to its stock markets

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China has been cheering ecstatically for US-born freestyle skier Eileen Gu, who got a gold medal for China at the Beijing Winter Olympics during the women’s big air competition yesterday (Feb. 8). Now it turns out companies whose names resemble Gu’s Chinese name are also getting a lift.

It is not uncommon for small-cap companies listed in China to see their shares move due to news events, even if the firms have no connection at all with the newsmakers. In November 2020, a Chinese company whose name sounds like “Trump wins big” in Mandarin Chinese surged almost 10% on the final voting day of the US presidential election, whose two candidates were the Democratic party’s Joe Biden and the Republican party’s Donald Trump.

The character Gu (?) can serve as a Chinese last name, as in the case of Eileen Gu who is known as Gu Ailing (???) in China, and is also the Chinese word for “valley.” On Tuesday, a company named “Yuanwanggu” (???), whose name can be roughly translated as “looking at Gu from afar,” surged nearly 10% around the time Gu won her first Olympic gold medal, reaching its daily limit and leading to trading in its shares being suspended on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

The company’s proxy popularity continued today, with its stock price rising around 10% at the market opening, again forcing trading to halt. Many investors and financial media outlets have attributed the share movement to the company’s name, saying it seems to convey the supportive message (link in Chinese) of “looking at Gu getting her championship from afar.”

The company told Quartz via email that it doesn’t have any connection to Gu, and that its share movement is affected by “multiple factors” in the markets. “Investing requires caution, please treat any rumor carefully,” said the company, an internet-of-things developer with a market cap of around 5 billion yuan ($785 million). Despite the warning, some of the company’s investors have suggested that it should sign a promotional partnership with Gu, according to China Securities Journal.

Shanghai-listed Lingzhi software, which has “Ling” (?) in its name, also added around 6% today.

Unrelated to Gu, Yuanlong Yato, a Beijing-based company that manufactures the popular Winter Olympics’ mascot “Bing Dwen Dwen,” a panda wearing an icy shell, jumped 10% for two straight sessions.

The movements based on news unconnected to fundamentals is due to the “too obviously retail investor characteristics” of the Chinese stock market, where institutional investors have yet to become dominant, Chen Yuan, an analyst with an asset management firm, was quoted as saying (Chinese) about the Gu-related frenzy by Chinese financial news outlet Di Yi Feng Kou.

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