Tencent loses $83b on HK bourse, wiping out value of fintech business, on fears of regulation

Tencent's stock fell more than 4 per cent in Hong Kong on March 15, following a 4.4. per cent drop the week before. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Tencent Holdings shares fell a second day on concern regulators are now turning their sights on Mr Pony Ma's business empire, fuelling a US$62 billion (S$83.5 billion) wipeout that one brokerage says obliterated most of the value of its online finance business.

The stock fell more than 4 per cent in Hong Kong on Monday (March 15), following a 4.4. per cent drop on Friday. China's top financial regulators see Tencent as the next target for increased supervision after the clamp down on Jack Ma's Ant Group, people with knowledge of their thinking have said. Like Ant, Tencent will probably be required to establish a financial holding company to include its banking, insurance and payments services, according to one of the people.

The Internet giant's payments and fintech business is worth between US$105 billion and US$120 billion, according to estimates by Bernstein analysts, including Mr Robin Zhu, who assigned a multiple of up to eight times to the division's trailing 12-month revenue of 100 billion yuan (US$15 billion). That would imply the payments business is worth about US$70 billion to US$80 billion, with credit, wealth management and insurance accounting for the remaining US$35 billion to US$40 billion.

"All else equal, we think it could be argued that Tencent's fintech business is now valued at almost zero," the Bernstein analysts wrote in a research report, citing Friday's loss. "This is significant, as it implies any further declines from here would essentially imply a de-rating of the Tencent multiple."

A move against Tencent would mark a significant escalation in China's campaign against the unfettered expansion of its technology giants. Premier Li Keqiang pledged at the National People's Congress earlier this month to expand oversight of financial technology, stamp out monopolies, and prevent the "unregulated" expansion of capital.

Tencent's regulatory woes goes beyond its fintech business. The antitrust regulator on Friday fined the company, along with some of China's other tech behemoths, for not seeking prior approval for earlier investments and acquisitions. The market is also concerned that the government may step up a clampdown on digital gaming, according to UOB Kay Hian.

"Ultimately though we consider the regulatory risk that Tencent faces in a very different light to the situation facing Alibaba," the Bernstein analysts said. "We consider Tencent top management's low public profile helpful on the margin. More importantly, we'd argue Tencent's competitive position in its main businesses remain very solid, with relatively few obvious competitors in core profit-driving businesses."

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