SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese artificial intelligence stocks are the latest rage in mainland markets as the global frenzy around the Microsoft-backed ChatGPT chatbot spurs speculative bets on the revolutionary computing technology.
Just two months after its launch, ChatGPT - which can generate articles, essays, jokes and even poetry in response to prompts - has been rated the fastest-growing consumer app in history. That has pushed Google owner Alphabet Inc to plan its own chatbot service and using more artificial intelligence for its search engine.
While ChatGPT is not accessible in China, mainland investors are still pumping up the shares of AI technology companies such as Hanwang Technology Co, TRS Information Technology Co and Cloudwalk Technology Co.
The CSI AI Industry Index, which includes larger capitalized companies such as iFlytek Co, is up about 17% this year, outperforming the benchmark CSI300 Index's 6% rise.
To be sure, there is no indication that these AI companies are close to pushing out a ChatGPT-like product. The closest seems to be search engine giant Baidu Inc with plans to complete testing of its "Ernie bot" in March. Its shares surged more than 13% on Tuesday after making the announcement.
"The industry as a whole tends to first speculate on expectations before only later trading on actual results," said Zhang Kexing, general manager of Beijing Gelei Asset Management.
Shares of Hanwang Technology, which makes products that enable intelligent interactions, jumped by their daily limit of 10% for the seven sessions after markets reopened from the Lunar New Year holiday, boosting prices by more than 60% so far in February.
The company expects to report an annual loss for 2022 but believes it has an edge over an interface like ChatGPT because its model can produce more precise results for clients.
Cloudwalk shares have more than doubled in the seven trading days since the Lunar New Year holidays. On Tuesday, the company cautioned investors, saying its losses deepened in 2022, it has not cooperated with OpenAI, and has generated no revenues from ChatGPT-related services and products.
Other companies that have disclosed their progress in AI technology include TRS Information Technology, and Beijing Haitian Ruisheng Science Technology Ltd. Their share prices have soared too.
The price surge has stretched valuations. TRS for example, trades at nearly 60 times earnings, while Huisheng's price-to-earnings ratio is more than 240.
Retail investor Lu Deyong has purchased shares in TRS and iFlytek and is seeking to profit from the ChatGPT hype.
"ChatGPT is just a hot idea," he said. However, he doesn't think "China can realize such a technology in the short term."
"For us retail investors, we prefer smaller stocks with this concept to make some quick money," Lu said.
(Reporting by Samuel Shen, Jason Xue and Brenda Goh; Editing by Vidya Ranganathan and Christian Schmollinger)