The Chinese government’s crackdown on its domestic technology industry continues, with Tencent under fresh pressure despite the company’s efforts to follow changing regulatory expectations.
News broke over the weekend that Beijing filed a civil suit against Tencent “over claims its messaging-app WeChat’s Youth Mode does not comply with laws protecting minors,” per the BBC. And NetEase, a major Chinese technology company, will delay the IPO of its music arm in Hong Kong. Why? Uncertain regulations, per Reuters.
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The latest spate of bad news for China’s technology industry follows a raft of regulatory changes and actions by the nation’s government that have deleted an enormous quantity of equity value. After a period of relatively light-touch regulatory oversight, domestic Chinese technology companies have found themselves on defense after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came after their market power in antitrust terms — and some of their business operations from other perspectives. Sectors hit the hardest include fintech and edtech.
Gaming is also in the CCP crosshairs.
After state media criticized the gaming industry as providing the digital equivalent of drugs to the nation’s youth last week, shares of companies like Tencent and NetEase fell. Tencent owns Riot Games, makers of the popular “League of Legends” title. And NetEase generated $2.3 billion in gaming revenue out of total revenues of $3.1 billion in its most recent quarter.
NetEase stock traded around $110 per share in late July. It’s now worth around $90 per share after expectations shifted in light of the gaming news, indicating that investors are concerned about its future performance. Tencent’s Hong Kong-listed stock has also fallen, from HK$775.50 to HK$461.60 this morning.
Tencent tried to head off regulatory pressure, announcing changes to how it controls access to its games after the government’s shot across the bow. The effort doesn’t appear to have worked. That Tencent is being sued by the government despite its publicly announced changes implies that its proposed curbs to youth gaming were either insufficient or perhaps moot from the beginning.