Tencent now worth more than Facebook

22 November 2017 - 07:00 By Reuters
Tencent comany name is displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong, China March 17, 2016. File Photo.
Tencent comany name is displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong, China March 17, 2016. File Photo.
Image: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Tencent, China's social media giant that is part-owned by Naspers, is now more valuable than Facebook and has entered the top five of the world's biggest firms.

Tencent's Hong Kong-listed shares have doubled in value this year and it is the first Asian company to reach a market capitalisation of $500-billion. On Tuesday Tencent's shares were worth a combined $523-billion, surpassing Facebook's $519 billion.

Naspers owns 34% of Tencent, having bought the stake in 2001 for just $32-million in what has been described as "the deal of the century". Naspers's holding is now worth $128-billion and has single-handedly made the publishing firm the best performer on the JSE in 2017, with a 50% leap in share price.

Tencent's earnings have surged on the popularity of its smartphone games, led by titles such as Honour of Kings - a fantasy role-playing game, which has as many active players as the population of Germany.

Also driving earnings has been its messaging-to-payment super-app WeChat which has amassed 980 million monthly active users, with 38 billion messages sent daily, while its YouTube equivalent, Tencent Video, has become the video streaming service with the largest paying subscriber base in China.

That success has helped Tencent's stock easily outpace a 36% rise in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Only Apple, with a market capitalisation of about $873-billion, followed by Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon are worth more.

Led by Chinese billionaire Pony Ma, Tencent this month reported a better-than-expected 69% rise in third-quarter net profit.

"Tencent's high growth, as demonstrated by its quarterly results, has supported the rally in its shares," said Steven Leung, a sales director at UOB Kay Hian. "Since the company has been able to deliver with its earnings, the stock is still worth holding onto despite its high level."

Tencent has also burnished its lustre after some units and affiliates have made some eye-catching market debuts.

An executive recently said the company is close to making Malaysia the first foreign country to roll out its WeChat ecosystem, pitting it against Alibaba as they scramble for new growth opportunities outside China.

Among the 39 analysts who cover Tencent, the average rating on its shares is a "buy".

After Tencent, rival Alibaba Group ranks second among Asian firms with a market value of $481.5-billion, while South Korea's Samsung Electronics is No 3 at $364-billion.