Employees display products at the exhibition booth of Kweichow Moutai Co during the 8th China (Guizhou) International Alcoholic Beverage Expo in Guiyang, capital of Southwest China's Guizhou Province. (Photo: IC)
Shares of China's leading liquor brand Kweichow Moutai fell 0.94 percent to 1,649 yuan ($242.8) on Wednesday after regulators warned against raising prices ahead of two major public holidays - a move connected to concerns over the use of public funds for banquets and gifts.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in a report on Tuesday sent a clear warning to some buying the luxury liquor as a gift with public funds and to scalpers who profit from hoarding the premium brand.
There is public concern that the rising prices of high-end liquor will fuel the return of the illegal practices of buying gifts and paying for banquets using public funds, the report said.
News reports about price hikes for domestic high-end spirits such as Kweichow Moutai and Wuliangye Yibin continue to emerge. In some cases, prices are at record highs.
The share price of Kweichow Moutai hit a historical high of 1,828 yuan on September 2. Since then, the price has fallen about 7.4 percent to 1,650 yuan.
The stock of another leading distiller - Wuliangye Yibin - is down 8.9 percent this month.
The official retail price for a single bottle of 53-degree Flying Fairy, a traditional signature product from Kweichow Moutai, is 1,499 yuan, but the real price has doubled.
"In the past two months, the price of Flying Fairy has been rising about 50 yuan per week, far exceeding the price increases for the Mid-Autumn festival and National Day last year," a media report said, citing a Moutai liquor dealer.
The market price of Flying Fairy has stayed above 2,800 yuan so far this month, and the retail price has exceeded 3,000 yuan per bottle, with the price in some areas reaching 3,300 yuan.
Price hikes for famed Chinese liquor brands have exceeded what the market normally sees, and there are suspicions that the gains are linked to bribery.
From January to July this year, 383 cases were investigated, 444 people were dealt with, and 331 people were penalized for violations of Party discipline, according to an official report.
This is not the first time that major liquor brands have been in the spotlight for soaring prices.
A media outlet under the People's Daily published an article in July criticizing some scalpers for profiting while corrupt officials stockpiled a certain high-end brand, which led to a temporary plunge in the brand's stock price.