Ahn Cheol-soo, a doctor-turned-computer entrepreneur, sees his anti-virus software maker AhnLab’s stock price rising in leaps and bounds, ironically reflecting his meteroric rise in the political arena and fueling speculation that he will run for president in December.
/ Korea Times file
By Yoon Ja-young
AhnLab, the country’s leading anti-virus software company, is soaring in the stock market as its major shareholder Ahn Cheol-soo emerges as the strongest potential presidential candidate. Analysts agree that the price has reached an irrational level but isn’t likely to fall in the immediate future.
AhnLab closed at 159,900 won per share Wednesday, with its price earnings ratio (PER), or the price of the share divided by the per share earnings, standing at 110. A PER of above 100 is quite unusual, according to analysts. The PER of software companies usually stands between 15 and 20.
Signs of irrationality
Kang Lok-hee, an analyst at Daishin Securities, said the price is unreasonable.
“For one thing, AhnLab has a total of around 10 million shares issued, and 4.3 million shares were traded Tuesday. It means 43 percent of the shares were traded on a single day. On Dec. 1 last year, 71.6 percent of its shares were traded.”
It means small-sum investors are engaged in day trading, seeking short-term profit. “Foreign investors have only 1.5 percent and institutional investors aren’t trading it either,” he added.
Kang said that the outlook on the Internet security industry is rosy. “Demand for Internet security services has soared among financial businesses following the hacking of Nonghyup and Hyundai Capital last year, and the private information protection act, which strengthens businesses’ protection of private information, is adding to the demand. I think AhnLab has no reason to be concerned over its performance for the next two years.”
Even so, the current price is irrational, according to Kang.
“Even when applying the PER of the upper band at 25, the stock price should be around 50,000 won. I think the appropriate price for the stock is between 45,000 and 50,000 won.”
Overshooting to continue
Behind the irrational surge is politics. Ahn, who is currently dean of Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology, is considered one of the strongest potential presidential candidates. He has been leading polls since last fall when he supported Park Won-soon, a leading NGO activist, in the Seoul mayoral election.
Kang said that the irrational price isn’t likely to return to the normal level anytime soon. “If Ahn announces that he won’t run for president, the stock price will plummet in one week. But it doesn’t seem he will.” Ahn has neither denied nor confirmed that he will run for office.
The analyst expects the stock to continue rising, though with drastic fluctuations, until the presidential election in December. “It will rise to the ceiling when Ahn tops polls and will plummet to the bottom when his popularity falls. It will continue fluctuating according to the news.”
What if Ahn becomes president? The analyst expects everybody to calm down then, with the stock price returning to the fundamental level immediately. “Even if he wins the election, it won’t make much difference for AhnLab. The local software industry has been in tough conditions that are unfavorable for technologically competitive but small- and medium-sized players like AhnLab,” he said. “Of course he is likely to try to make a level playing field for small software firms, but it won’t immediately affect his company.”
국내 선도 백신 소프트웨어 기업인 안철수연구소가, 최대주주인 안철수씨가 유력한 대선 후보로 부상하며, 주식시장에서 상승중이다. 애널리스트들은 가격이 비이성적인 수준에 도달했지만 가까운 시일 내에 떨어질 것 같지 않다고 얘기한다.
안철수연구소는 수요일 15만 9천9백원에 마감해, 주가를 주당순익으로 나눈 주가수익비율 (PER)이 110을 기록했다. 애널리스트들에 따르면 PER이 100을 넘는 건 매우 드문 일이라고 말한다. 소프트웨어 업체의 PER은 대개 15에서 20 사이에 있다.
대신증권 강록희 애널리스트는 가격이 비이성적이라고 말한다.
“우선, 안철수연구소의 총 발행주식수가 1천만 정도인데, 화요일에 430만주가 거래되었습니다. 주식의 43퍼센트가 하루 동안 거래됐다는 말이지요. 작년 12월 1일에는 71.6퍼센트가 거래되었어요.”
이는 소액투자자들이 단기차익을 노린 단타매매를 하고 있음을 의미한다. “외국인 투자자 비율은 1.5퍼센트 밖에 되지 않고, 기관투자자들도 거래를 하고 있지 않습니다.”
강 애널리스트는 보안산업 자체의 전망은 밝다고 말했다. “작년 농협과 현대캐피탈 해킹 사건 이후로 금융기관들 사이에 인터넷 보안 서비스 수요가 증가했습니다. 기업들이 개인정보 보호를 강화하도록 하는 개인정보보호법도 수요를 증가시키고 있고요. 아마 향후 2년간 안철수연구소는 실적 걱정은 안해도 될겁니다.”
그렇다 하더라도 현재 주가는 비이성적이라고 그는 말한다.