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,Singing the blues: BTS at the grammy awards in Las Vegas. As the pop group-triggered slump suggests, entertainment companies can be overly reliant on one act. — AFP

SEOUL: South Korean dramas and pop songs have never been more popular globally. In the stock market though, bullishness over the so-called South Korean wave is fading fast.

Superstar pop band BTS’s announcement of a hiatus is the latest bad news to hit the nation’s entertainment sector, causing a 25% plunge in the shares of its managing agency Hybe Co last Wednesday.

An equal-weighted basket of stocks of South Korean drama producers and pop music agencies has slumped 39% this year, outpacing the 18% drop in the benchmark Kospi.

The 22 firms in the cohort have lost US$12.7bil (RM56bil) in market value in 2022, with Hybe accounting for more than half the decline, according to Bloomberg calculations. That’s after the basket jumped about 60% in 2021.South Korean entertainment firms have also been hurt by the post-pandemic slump in online streaming services including Netflix Inc that carry their content, and by broader concern about rising interest rates. And some analysts say the shares just got too expensive amid the boom.

Hybe, for example, traded at more than 56 times its next 12-month earnings in November. It’s about 25 now.

“They are a special kind of growth stocks,” said Lee Kyoung-Min, an analyst at Daishin Securities Co.

“Their volatility could be huge on specific events, such as the comeback or the suspension of a certain music group’s activities.”

The South Korean-wave stock boom was fuelled by a series of mega-hits that captivated audiences around the world.

“Parasite” became the first non-English film to win the Academy award for best picture in 2020 while a year later “Squid Game” turned into Netflix’s biggest series launch ever.

BTS manager Hybe went public and the group itself topped Billboard’s charts.

Delighting many children but not necessarily their parents, “Baby Shark (Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo)” was viewed more than 10 billion times on YouTube. But as the BTS-triggered slump suggests, sometimes entertainment companies can be overly reliant on one act.

The band’s announcement that its members would pursue individual projects wiped out about US$1.7bil (RM7.5bil) in Hybe’s market value in a day.

Meantime, Giantstep Inc, which makes K-Pop avatars and works with Hybe, saw its stock skyrocket over 1,000% in 2021 but it’s given up almost all of those gains.

Netflix’s outlook is also a concern, after it lost subscribers for the first time in a decade. That’s troubling for drama production firms that were expected to benefit from increased competition among the likes of Netflix and Apple Inc.

Still, the US streaming giant is likely to keep spending on South Korean content as Asia is its only growth region.

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