Protest buying: Shares of arrested Hong Kong tycoon's firm surge

Shares of Next Digital gained more than 1,000 percent over two days since media firm's founder, Jimmy Lai, was arrested.

by
    Jimmy Lai, owner of Next Digital and publisher of the Apple Daily newspaper - which has been critical of Beijing and the Hong Kong government - was arrested on Monday under the city’s new national security law [Roy Liu/Bloomberg]
    Jimmy Lai, owner of Next Digital and publisher of the Apple Daily newspaper - which has been critical of Beijing and the Hong Kong government - was arrested on Monday under the city’s new national security law [Roy Liu/Bloomberg]

    They’ve occupied Hong Kong’s central business district, marched by the hundreds of thousands through the city’s streets and endured tear gas and pepper spray in pitched battles with riot police.

    Now Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters are wielding a new protest weapon: their stock-market trading accounts. To show support for Jimmy Lai, the publisher who was arrested Monday under the city’s new national security law, Hong Kongers have been buying shares of his media network Next Digital Ltd. The result has been a more than 1,000% gain in two days that propelled the stock to a six-year high.

    “There are a huge number of retail investors buying,” said Castor Pang, head of research at Core Pacific-Yamaichi. “If you just look at the bid-ask price and the size of single trades, most are super small.”

    Next Digital share price chart [Bloomberg]
    [Bloomberg]

    The huge gain, organized via online forums, shows the struggle Beijing officials will have suppressing the desire to show opposition to intensifying mainland rule -- even as the right to protest publicly is being curtailed by social distancing restrictions and the national security legislation.

    The tactic also helps Lai financially. The media owner controls 71% of the shares according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The rally has lifted their value by HK$2.3 billion ($303 million).

    Supporters are finding other ways to show solidarity. Local media reported people lining up to buy copies of Lai’s flagship newspaper Apple Daily this morning. The newspaper said in a Facebook post it increased printing to 550,000 copies on Tuesday due to surging demand, versus around 70,000 two weeks ago.

    On major online forums such as LIHKG, posters urged people to continue buying the stock as well as copies of Apple Daily. A post on Next Digital had more than 15 pages of comments as of Tuesday morning.

    Along with Lai, a number of executives at the company were arrested. Next Digital said the incidents are not expected to have any material adverse impact on the daily operations of the group, according to a statement to Hong Kong’s stock exchange.

    SOURCE: Bloomberg