China’s liquor and e-cigarette companies have emerged as the latest market casualty in Beijing’s crackdown on “vice industries” after reports from state media that suggest they could be the next targets for stricter regulation.
Shares in e-cigarette and liquor makers slumped on Thursday after reports in the Chinese media of adolescent e-cigarette use and links between alcohol and cancer spooked investors who fear the state may be planning to broaden its crackdown on digital gaming and technology companies.
Earlier this week Tencent, the Chinese tech company, promised to help curb the time children spend playing its flagship video game after state media attacks accusing the gaming industry of peddling “spiritual opium” sent its shares into freefall.
The market jitters triggered by the state media’s scrutiny of the tobacco and alcohol sectors were less severe, but they underline the ongoing sense of political peril running through China’s listed companies, which triggered a $1tn global selloff last month.
The tobacco vaping firm Huabao International Holdings tumbled by more than 11% in Hong Kong, with China Boton Group losing 2.7%, after reports from Xinhua, the superpower’s official state-run news agency, about the ability of adolescents to obtain e-cigarettes. The cigarette packaging maker Shenzhen Jinjia slid nearly 5% in Shenzhen.
China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that some e-cigarette shops in the northern cities of Tianjin and Shenyang were failing to enforce laws prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
“E-cigarettes pose a safety hazard to minors, and further efforts should be made to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors,” Xinhua quoted Fu Jia, the director of the Tianjin Lawyers Association’s professional committee for the protection of minors, as saying.
Shares in the liquor maker Kweichow Moutai, China’s most valuable non-technology company, fell by 1.5% while its rival Wuliangye Yibin dropped 3.1% after a government ministry posted an article online on the links between alcohol and cancer.
Earlier this year, Beijing ordered the e-commerce company Alibaba to sell off media assets including Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post as part of the state’s crackdown on the growing public influence held by the country’s sprawling tech conglomerates.
Mark Haefele, the chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, said the bank believed that “further restrictions are possible in the tech sector and socially sensitive areas like property and healthcare”.
“We prefer areas that stand to benefit from the global reopening and are less vulnerable to tighter regulation, including energy and greentech, along with consumer durables and services,” he said.