Tencent founder Pony Ma warns company is replaceable in leaked speech signalling a low-key future

  • In a speech reported online, the tech giant’s chief executive emphasised Tencent’s role as an ‘assistant and connector’
  • Ma said the operator of China’s largest social media and video gaming businesses should avoid crossing any lines after a year of increasing regulatory pressure

Pony Ma Huateng, the founder and chief executive of Tencent Holdings, warned employees last month that the company could be replaced at any time in a speech emphasising the company’s role in providing a service to society, according to a report by online Chinese media outlet LatePost.

During a year-end meeting, Ma described the country’s biggest social media and video gaming giant as an ordinary company that has benefited from China’s rapid development, according to the report published on Monday.

He added that the tech giant should do its job without crossing any lines, reiterating a past theme about the company serving as an ‘assistant and connector’.

Shenzhen-based Tencent declined to comment on the report. Its shares gained 4.5 per cent in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

The 50-year-old entrepreneur has only occasionally spoken in public in recent years about the business he created, making Ma’s reported comments a rare glimpse at the thinking behind the company’s response to an increasingly tough regulatory environment.

Tencent, the most valuable Chinese technology company, has been under pressure to address issues related to data security and video games over the past year, as Beijing has sought to curb the influence of capital.

The company was fined multiple times last year by China’s market watchdog for failing to disclose past merger and acquisition deals, a practice that continued into the new year.

In July, regulators ordered Tencent to relinquish its exclusive music licencing deals with global record labels and blocked a long-awaited merger that would have combined the country’s two largest video game live-streaming platforms, Douyu and Huya.

WeChat, Tencent’s flagship social media and messaging app with 1.26 billion monthly active users worldwide, has also updated user settings to comply with new data security rules. The app and other social media platforms have been pressured to stop blocking links to rival services, as well.

At the same time, Tencent has made moves to contribute to Beijing’s social goals, including pledging 50 billion yuan (US$7.8 billion) to promote “sustainable social values” and another 50 billion yuan for “common prosperity”, a key issue promoted by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In the past month, the company has divested significant portions of its stakes in e-commerce player JD.com and Singaporean gaming and e-commerce firm Sea. Analysts said the move aligns with regulatory efforts to rein in the expansion of capital.

Author: Iris Deng, SCMP

You might also like