Shanghai’s STAR Market opened on Monday, July 22, 2019. Photo: AFP

Crazy was the only word to describe China’s new Nasdaq-style technology board.

On Monday, investors went on a share-buying binge as the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Sci-Tech Innovation Board, or STAR for short, was launched. All the initial 25 companies listed went off the scale.

Mainly from the sectors involved in microchips, biotechnology and AI, or artificial intelligence, the firms racked up average gains of 140% in a raucous day.

By the close of business, this had created around 305 billion yuan (US$44.3 billion) in new market capitalization, according to Reuters’ calculations.

One of the big winners was Anji Microelectronics, a chip manufacturer.

The Shanghai company opened 287% higher than its initial public offering price before trading was suspended for 10 minutes during the morning session after it jumped by 404% to 197.6 yuan from 39.19 yuan.

By the close, the shares were trading at 196.01 yuan, or 400% higher than at the opening bell.

“This [surge] is crazy,” Ronald Wan, the chief executive of Partners Capital International in Hong Kong, told CNN television. “But it’s already overdone. I don’t think such gains can last long. It’s way too speculative,” he added.

The decision to roll out the STAR index represents one of the country’s most significant market reforms and a potential weapon in Beijing’s growing technology rivalry with the United States.

China envisions the board as a long-term alternative to the US bench-mark tech index, the Nasdaq, encouraging firms to list at home after the likes of Alibaba and Baidu decided to plump for Wall Street. But the initial impact is expected to be slight.

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“I think the science and technology board will develop into a major and important sector in China’s capital markets, but it will take a long time, maybe 10 years, 20 years, or even longer,” Jiang Liangqing, a money manager at Ruisen Capital Management, told AFP news agency.

China hopes to draw listings from among the country’s rich stable of tech “unicorns,” or start-ups valued at a minimum of $1 billion. These include the Alibaba-linked mobile-payments pioneer Ant Financial, ride-sharing giant Didi Chuxing and online-services platform Meituan-Dianping.

But none of those were among the initial 25, which include no household names.

The biggest was China Railway Signal & Communication Corporation, which has reportedly raised 10.5 billion yuan, the most of any board constituent.

It is a leap of faith for China’s volatility-averse authorities as stocks have a relatively free rein.

For the first time, home-grown companies can list without a track record of past profits or restrictions on IPO prices.

There will be no limits on price movements for the first five days of trading after which a daily 20% band will be imposed.

“The launch of the new board is a fresh sign China has shifted its focus from quantity and pace to quality in driving economic growth,” Yu Peihua, the general manager of mutual fund AXA SPDB Investment Managers, told the South China Morning Post.

“China is highlighting the role of the capital market in bolstering technology companies, and encouraging them to conduct technological innovation,” Yu added.

– additional report by AFP

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