SKorea's biggest stock mover: its next president

By Youkyung Lee

Associated Press

Published: Friday, April 20 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

"It was more than 10 years ago that we made a consultation with Moon's previous legal firm but we never pursued a lawsuit with it," said the official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to press. "Even if we deny any links with Moon Jae-in, markets consider it a matter of fact."

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said in a recent report there are around 80 companies on the main KOSPI and KOSDAQ stock markets that are linked with presidential hopefuls.

The typical investor in politics stocks follows the words of the candidates religiously but pays little attention to what are considered reasonable indications of a company's value, such as cashflow.

Politics, a combination of superstition, a guessing game of psychology and lessons from their past experiences guide their investment decisions. Being the first to intuit which stocks will become seen as linked to presidential hopefuls is one way to strike the jackpot.

Lee, the student, said his profit of 1.5 million won ($1,314) from his Wooridul shares was a return of 20 percent on his original investment. He missed out in February when its share price quadrupled in just 20 days, but he began buying the coveted stock in March when the first round of rumors about Moon's presidential ambitions began abating.

April 12 was a particularly good day for stocks linked with other presidential hopefuls — Park Geun-hye, a top ruling party official and Ahn Cheol-soo, founder of South Korea's largest anti-virus software maker, AhnLab Inc.

Lee said he got a 60 percent return on the 10 million won he invested in Park related shares in February.

EG Corp., an iron oxide maker that has Park's brother as its largest shareholder, jumped by the daily limit of 15 percent for two straight days after the parliamentary elections.

So did Agabang & Company, a maker of toddler's clothing. But the rationale for its dramatic rise was a little more plausible than for many other stocks perceived to have links to politicians. Park has often said her policies will boost South Korea's feeble birth rate if elected president.

Shares of AhnLab, founded by Ahn, closed at 119,000 won on Thursday, up nearly six times the price a year earlier.

Ahn, who own 37.1 percent of AhnLab, has not confirmed whether he will run for president but if he does, polls show that he would be one of the strongest contenders.

The 80 companies linked to politics are just a fraction of the more than 1,800 companies listed on South Korea's stock markets. But this year they have accounted for 10 percent of daily trading, local media reports have said.

Officials at the South Korean bourse operator and the financial watchdog said they cannot confirm the figures because they do not make an official list of stocks linked to political figures.

"Park-themed stocks will outperform for a while, so my portfolio will mostly compose of Park stocks and I will diversify some in Moon-related stocks," said Kwak, a father of two.

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