Mixing Markets, Faith, and Instagram
Bloomberg Businessweek|July 19, 2021
A celebrity preacher in Indonesia shows that meme stocks are a global phenomenon
Fathiya Dahrul and Soraya Permatasari

If you’re looking to invest in Indonesia, you can read about the local economy, analyze companies from the bottom up, or maybe call a broker for ideas. Or you could just check out the latest social media post from one of the country’s most popular clerics.

Jam’an Nurchotib Mansur isn’t your run-of-the-mill ustadz, or Muslim teacher. As a young man, he spent some time in jail. Today, at 45, he runs an asset management business on the side and led a deal to invest in a local bank. When he’s not preaching, he posts stock picks to his social media accounts, where 13 million followers tune in for inspiration.

“I don’t understand stock trading, but I usually look at his postings for ideas,” says Fithriyah, a 35-year-old who follows Mansur’s Instagram account and started investing only this year. “He is an ustadz, who always preaches for self-discipline and not to become greedy, so I trust him.” (Like many Indonesians, Fithriyah doesn’t have a last name.)

In November, the preacher, who’s also known as Yusuf Mansur, said on Instagram that he thought a money-losing state-owned airline, PT Garuda Indonesia, would recover once the pandemic ebbs. The company’s stock surged as much as 45% over the next week. A month later, Mansur was talking up air transport servicer PT Garuda Maintenance Facility Aero Asia. Those shares jumped 55% over the next two days.

Such posts have the power to create (and destroy) billions of dollars in equity value. Indonesia is the world’s fourth-most populous nation, and its stock market—which at $495 billion is worth more than Singapore’s or Mexico’s—is gaining momentum after relaxing regulations to attract fast-growing startups. The first of Indonesia’s tech unicorns is expected to debut later this year.

Around the world, media personalities are becoming market influencers, and vice versa. Mansur’s reach in Indonesia makes him reminiscent of figures in the U.S., such as Tesla Inc. co-founder Elon Musk or the entrepreneur and reality-show judge Mark Cuban, who have egged on investors in cryptocurrencies. Or Cathie Wood, the fund manager who’s become a celebrity in her own right.

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