Star Power? Yao Ming (left) and actor/investor Yang Zi (second from left) are two stars hit hard by the market downturn.  Photo: CCT

Translated by Andrew Vanburen from a Chinese-language piece in Chongqing Commercial Times

AS THE SAYING GOES, you have to have money to make money.

That only makes sense because if you have a million sgd to spare, and park it in a bank with 5% annual interest, you walk away with an extra 50 grand in 12-months time, easily enough to live on.

But if you just have 100,000 sgd to your name, you’re only guaranteed five grand, pre-tax, a year later... probably not enough to cover your rent.

And while making big bucks usually depends on having the resources to invest in the first place, the same could be said for losing wheelbarrows full of cash – ie: you have to be rich in the first place to lose millions in the market.

Some big names in China’s entertainment industry are learning this the hard way.

So much for the spoils of celebrity.

At last count, 15 highly recognizable Chinese superstars have lost 300 million yuan during the past two years in the country’s stock market, with basketball legend Yao Ming seeing 45 million of his fortunes foul out of the game.

They are athletes, broadcasters, singers and actors, and they all have revealed investment results of late that fall far short of Oscar-worthy or All Star caliber performances.

Among them, one of the biggest names is also one of the biggest net losers of late – former NBA star center Yao Ming.

Perhaps bit by the byte bug, the ex-Houston Rocket agreed to a big spokesperson contract with UniStrong Science & Tech Co, a satellite navigation products developer.

The China market slide has dragged down celebrity investors in its wake

The tech firm has continued to see its profit shrink since listing on the A-share SME Board in April 2010, and even swung to a net loss in the first quarter of this year.

But Yao has stuck with the Beijing-based firm through thick and thin, and as thanks for his dedication, his salary with the firm has plummeted by 45 million yuan into the bargain.

Not too shabby for a firm with a registered capital of just 144 million yuan.

The A-share listed firm recently downgraded its first half earnings guidance, now saying it expects a bottom line loss of around 25 million yuan for the period.

The firm’s current share price is mired at levels of around 72% below its 2010 IPO price.

In late 2007, at the height of his NBA career, Yao Ming was given 375,000 shares in the firm of a payment, a sum that by today’s standards has shrunk in value by around 45 million yuan, partly due to share price falls but also thanks to a major share split.

Of course, Yao Ming isn’t the only Chinese celebrity to be bowled over by the bourse bears of late.

Yang Zi, accomplished screen and TV actor, also wears another hat – vice chairman of Juli Sling Co.

But his dramatic skills did little to prevent the dramatic loss of 200 million yuan of his investment in his own firm.

These are just two of the more high-profile cases of celebrities in the sports and entertainment world perhaps getting in over their heads, investment wise.

It just goes to show that this market downturn does not discriminate, and affects us all no matter how well we dunk a basketball or carry a film at the box office.

See also:

PROPERTIES, PREMIUMS, PIERS: Three China Sectors Scrutinized

Five China Sectors About To Get Hot

BUCKING TREND: China Shares Ready For Rebound?

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