‘Squid Game’ drives up Korean entertainment stocks – from K-pop to cinemas

Bucket Studio, which holds a stake in the agency that represents lead actor Lee Jung Jae, has rallied about 35% since the Netflix series was released

Netflix’s runaway hit Squid Game came like a bolt from the blue for viewers around the world. The impact on equity investors in its home country of South Korea is proving equally intense.

While the nation’s benchmark share index has dropped about 4 per cent since the drama was released in mid September, dozens of stocks in the vibrant entertainment sector spanning K-pop bands to cinema have gone into overdrive.

South Korea is best known to consumers in the US and Europe for its Samsung smartphones and Hyundai cars but closer to home, in Asia, it is also a force in cultural exports such as film and music.

The hope now in Seoul is that Squid Game’s success helps take this industry global.

“The stage has been set for ‘K-dramas’ and content to expand and reach an even wider audience,” said Lee Sang-Hun, a senior analyst at HI Investment & Securities in Seoul.

“The shares of companies in this area – large caps and small caps – reflect these expectations.”

Bucket Studio, which holds a stake in an agency that represents lead actor Lee Jung Jae, has rallied by about 35 per cent since the series was released on September 17. Squid Game producer Siren Pictures is not listed.

Studio Santa Clause Entertainment, the producer of the crime series My Name, is up about 50 per cent, having surged 30 per cent in one particularly feverish day of trade.

Other stocks to benefit include Astory, producer of the Netflix zombie thriller series Kingdom, visual effects production firm Dexter Studios, production house Showbox, local entertainment company CJ ENM, which also controls Studio Dragon and Jcontentree, which has a contract with Disney+ for content.

All up, this has brought a 23 per cent rally in the Kosdaq Recreation & Culture Index since Squid Game’s release, easily beating the broader market.

Global funds added a net 106 billion won ($90 million) worth of stocks in the Kosdaq culture sub-gauge from the same starting point, according to data compiled by Bloomberg through October 22. Local retail investors bought a net 257bn won worth, the data show.

“A lot of things helped make Squid Game a success,” said Shin Su-Yeon, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities. “We can’t ignore the impact of groups like BTS and Blackpink – pop artists who have played a role in rousing curiosity in Korean culture.”

To be sure, the foundations for the current strength of the sector go back a long way, at least as far back as the presidency of Kim Dae-jung in the late 1990s. ––

Policymakers then recognised the potential for the entertainment industry and brought in rules and tax incentives to promote local content.

Updated: October 24th 2021, 11:37 AM
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