Hanwang, bellwether of Chinese ChatGPT frenzy, under regulatory scrutiny

The Shenzhen Stock Exchange said on Friday it had put Hanwang Technology Co Ltd, widely seen as a bellwether of Chinese ChatGPT-concept stocks, on its “focus watch list” following recent “abnormal” gains in its share price.

The move comes after Chinese state media on Thursday cautioned against risks in chasing local ChatGPT-concept stocks and as Hanwang on Friday flagged earnings risks.

Shares of Hanwang and other Chinese developers of artificial intelligence (AI) products and services have surged as a global frenzy around the Microsoft-backed ChatGPT chatbot spurred speculative bets on revolutionary AI computing technology.

ChatGPT, a chatbot developed by U.S. firm OpenAI, gives strikingly human-like responses to user queries.

Hanwang uses natural language processing (NLP) and human-machine interaction technology among others to provide ChatGPT-style products to specific areas such as finance, legal and government administration.

Hanwang’s shares slumped nearly 6% on Friday after the company flagged business, trading, and earnings risks at the request of the Shenzhen bourse and disclosed that several major shareholders had reduced their stakes. Still, the stock is up 65% so far this month.

If a stock is put on the exchange’s “focus watch list”, it allows regulators to potentially demand fresh disclosures, impose restrictions on trading, or investigate related securities accounts for suspected misbehaviours if required.

The regulatory scrutiny on Hanwang could further cool the frenzy around the technology that had pumped up shares in Chinese AI companies such as Beijing Haitian Ruisheng Science Technology Ltd and CloudWalk Technology Co Ltd.

In its exchange filing, Hanwang said its NLP technology is still small and nascent, and faces numerous uncertainties ahead.

In addition, the company expects an annual loss of up to 140 million yuan ($20.57 million) for 2022.

“We advise investors to invest rationally, refrain from speculating, and pay attention to investment risk,” Hanwang said.

The company also disclosed share sales by its major shareholders this month.

Henan Yellow River Computer System Co Ltd, a top 10 shareholder, sold 2.6 million Hanwang shares between Jan. 30 and Feb. 7, Hanwang said.

Tongfang Investment sold 3.4 million shares during the period, while Juneng Capital Management offloaded 1.2 million shares, the company added.

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