Wed, Sep 18, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Tencent approaches Facebook’s value

CHINESE INTERNET BOOM:China’s netizens have grown almost sevenfold since the firm went public in 2004. It has bought a US$448m stake in the Sogou search engine


Tencent Holdings Ltd’s (騰訊) market value surpassed US$100 billion within a decade of going public as Asia’s biggest Internet company capitalizes on China’s explosion in online gaming and messaging.

Tencent’s 2.2 percent increase in Hong Kong this week lifted its market value to HK$780.6 billion (US$101 billion). The company run by billionaire Pony Ma (馬化騰) joins six other members of Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index in the US$100 billion club, including PetroChina Co (中國石油天然氣) and China Mobile Ltd (中國移動).

China’s online population surged almost sevenfold since Tencent’s 2004 initial public offering, with revenue at the Shenzhen-based company more than doubling in the past two years. China’s online gaming sales are expected to reach 1.3 trillion yuan (US$212.4 billion) by 2016, from 66.2 billion yuan last year, Shanghai-based Internet consulting firm Iresearch said.

“Mobile Internet was the main driver, as this sector has been posting very fast growth,” Hong Kong-based CCB International Holding Ltd analyst (中國建設銀行國際控股) Eric Qiu said. “There should be no problem for Tencent’s momentum to last until the end of this year and into the next.”

Tencent’s market capitalization is greater than that of Softbank Corp, McDonald’s Corp and Boeing Co. It trails a handful of technology companies worldwide, including Apple Inc, Google Inc, Microsoft Corp, Samsung Electronics Co and Facebook Inc, which is valued at US$103.5 billion.

Also yesterday, Tencent said it paid US$448 million for part of China’s third-largest search engine to help compete against Baidu (百度) Inc. Tencent bought a 36.5 percent stake in Inc’s Sogou unit with an option to increase that investment to 40 percent, a joint statement said after the Hong Kong market closed.

Tencent was founded in November 1998, and its early services focused on e-mail, dating and online games. Tencent raised more than HK$1.7 billion from an initial public offering in 2004.

China had 591 million Internet subscribers at the end of June, compared with 87 million at the end of June 2004, according to China Internet Network Information Center’s Web site.

The number of people in China accessing the Internet via mobile devices rose 10 percent to 464 million by the end of June from six months earlier, the center said. That is greater than the population of any other country except India.

Tencent shares have risen 69 percent this year, compared with a 2.3 percent gain in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

The company’s rise has enriched others, including largest shareholder Naspers Ltd, which owns about a third of the stock. Shares of the Cape Town-based company surged 76 percent this year, compared with an 11 percent gain on the FTSE/JSE Africa All Shares Index.

Tencent’s QQ instant messaging service had 818 million monthly active users at the end of June, and its WeChat service had 236 million. That compares with about 1 million instant-messaging accounts in 1999, according to its Web site.

“They were on the forefront of the whole mobile shift,” Hong Kong-based RHB Research Institute Sdn analyst Billy Leung said.

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