Olympics-Chinese gymnast's wealth soars with opening ceremony

lunedì 11 agosto 2008 09:13

By Dominic Whiting and Joseph Chaney

HONG KONG Aug 11 (Reuters) - Former Chinese gymnast Li Ning was $30 million richer on Monday when shares in his company soared thanks to a starring role at the Olympics opening ceremony, when he was hoisted by cables to light a cauldron.

Investors snapped up shares in his Hong Kong-listed sportswear firm, Li Ning Co. Ltd (2331.HK: Quotazione), hoping that global recognition would follow Friday's spectacle.

Audiences around the world gave rave reviews to the extravaganza of thundering drums and exploding firecrackers, which ended with a heart-stopping climax when Li simulated a race in mid air to set the giant Olympic cauldron ablaze.

Although the impact on sales of Li Ning's clothing line may be hard to gauge, shares in the firm shot up 5 percent on Monday morning to HK$18.50.

Li controlled 266.8 million shares of the firm as of July 11, including through a company jointly owned by his brother, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The paper gain of $30 million for the former gymnast who won six medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, follows a 3.7 percent share price rally on Friday as rumours swirled that he would feature in the opening ceremony.

The stock is down 34 percent this year, in line with falling stock markets, after more than doubling in 2007.

"I think it actually has more to do with hype," said Germaine Khong, a Hong Kong-based analyst at brokers CIMB. "There's a risk of over-expansion in the Chinese sportswear market, but Li Ning is the short-term beneficiary of the Olympics."   Continua...