China toasts fine alcohol investment


Fine liquor has become a rising star in China's investment market, as evidenced by the optimism of alcohol merchants who attended a just-finished exposition in southwest China.

More than 150,000 businesspeople took part in the 86th China National Food, Wine and Spirits Fair held in Chengdu, provincial capital of Sichuan, which closed on Monday.

There was talk of the buoyancy of China's wine market across the fair. Li Zhaowen, a merchant dealing French alcohol, for example, is expecting an increase in orders for fine alcohol products from Chinese sellers to meet surging demand.

Global investment in fine wine started to build up a head of steam from the end of 2008. According to London International Vintners Exchange Fine Wine 100 Index, which represents price changes among the 100 most sought-after fine wines, the price of fine wines surged 70 percent from January 2009 to early 2012.

In the wine market, only 0.1 percent of products are qualified as open to investors. But with a return rate much higher than gold and diamond, fine wine investment soon piqued the interest of Chinese.

In 2011, the Shanghai Wine Exchange opened to the public as a platform for trading wines in terms of futures and spot goods, marking the securitization of China's fine wine market.

Also last year, China's first wine futures fund, "De-Rouge," was established, and it has now raised more than 100 million yuan (15.9 million U.S. dollars).

The passion was also felt in the Chinese spirits market, which has witnessed prices rise by five to seven times on average, and 10 times for some brands, since 1999. One premium Chinese product, Moutai, has been in constant short reply after its price surpassed 2,000 yuan per bottle.

In 2011, the Chinese big brand Luzhou Laojiao cooperated with China Minsheng Banking Corp. Ltd. to roll out China's first financial liquor product. The product, boasting an annual return rate of 4.2 percent, sold out in half a day, raising a total of 200 million yuan.

Other banks soon followed Minsheng into the arena, developing more financial liquor products to profit from the fashion of buying such products as a cushion against inflation.

Zhang Xiaozhong, an analyst at Chongqing Three Gorges Bank, said the sound securitization of alcohol investment means more liquidity for alcohol businesses, easing their capital flow pressures.

Zhang, however, warned of the squeezed appreciation space for imported fine wines due to a complicated reselling process, customs and taxes. Investment in these products requires more professional knowledge from investors, he warned.


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