Know Thy Stocks

The amount of information offered in English on the Korean stock market is pretty minimal. This is completely understandable—it always amazes me when folks from English-speaking countries expect everything in this country to be translated just for them—but it does make things a touch trickier for foreign investors. English information typically comes through brokers in the form of analyst reports, which of course are biased. Also, these brokers are not targeting you—they’re targeting big institutional investors, who typically only bother with large Korean companies (i.e. ones that begin with ‘Samsung’, ‘Hyundai’, or ‘SK’). This means that you’ll probably be the last person to hear about that super widget gizmo maker whose stock went up from 1,000 won to 10,000 in the past six months.

With a simple click, you can find out all kinds of dull but extremely useful details, such as who the main shareholders of a particular company are, four years worth of balance sheets, comparisons to rival firms, and more ratios than you can shake a stick at.

For those who can read a little Korean though, finance.naver.com is well worth a look. This site, and Daum’s equivalent, offer information that would put Yahoo! Finance and Google’s equivalent to shame. For a start, by clicking on ‘기업분석’ (company analysis) you can find out all kinds of dull but extremely useful details, such as who the main shareholders of a particular company are, four years worth of balance sheets, comparisons to rival firms, and more ratios than you can shake a stick at.

One very simple feature of Naver Finance that I love is ‘인기토론실’ (debating room for popular stocks, which sounds like a horrifically clunky translation—my apologies) simply because this tells me which stocks to avoid like the plague. There are two kinds of 인기토론실 stocks: those that have 인기 because they are huge, such as Hynix, or Kia Motors; and those that have 인기 because they are hyped up. Naturally, it’s the latter you want to steer clear of.

CT&T, the company I wrote about last time, was on that list for a very long time—all the way down from 800 won to 100 won—as was one named KDC, a 3D graphics company that rode the wave of Avatar hype from under 1000 won to 10,000, became 인기, and of course fell back to earth (because they never really made any money). These are the kind of stocks that big players like the mutual funds and investment banks don’t usually bother with: their buyers are salarymen dreaming of hitting the jackpot so they can quit their miserable jobs. Unfortunately though, it never seems to work out that way.

Daniel Tudor

About Daniel Tudor

Daniel Tudor is the Korea correspondent for The Economist. His book, ‘Korea: The Impossible Country,’ will be published by Tuttle in spring 2011. He often uses obscure British expressions which you can look up here. Find out more at daniel-tudor.com

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