Tencent sale spooks traders in China

Tech selloff deepens.
Image: Yan Cong, Bloomberg

China’s tech stocks fell once again on Wednesday as firms backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd came under pressure after it pared investment in the sector for a second time in two weeks.

The Hang Seng Tech Index fell as much as 4% – the most since September – in a third day of declines, with overnight weakness in US peers also weighing.

The gauge is set for the lowest close since its inception in July 2020 with Tencent investees Bilibili Inc, Meituan and JD.com Inc among the biggest losers.

The Chinese tech giant cut its stake in Singapore’s Sea Ltd on Tuesday – selling $3 billion of shares – sparking concerns of similar actions at other firms amid Beijing’s regulatory crackdown.

Read: Tencent plans to sell a stake in Singapore’s Sea

China’s US-listed tech shares fell overnight amid a broad selloff in the sector, with traders worried about the rise in Treasury yields putting pressure on stocks with extended valuations.

Tencent’s move is aiding expectations that the firm and its rivals may pare holdings as Beijing punishes the country’s tech giants for anti-competitive behavior, including maintaining closed ecosystems that favor certain firms at the expense of others.

Last month the company said it plans to distribute more than $16 billion of JD.com’s shares as a one-time dividend.

Read: Here’s where Xi may strike next in China’s regulatory crackdown

“China’s anti-monopoly rules and regulators’ concerns about data privacy as well as web security may lead to more divestment in the country’s internet space in the coming months,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Cecilia Chan wrote in a note.

Tencent controlled a portfolio of investments worth $185 billion at the end of September, Bloomberg Intelligence estimates.

Online Pressure

Among Tencent-backed companies, live-streaming platform operator Bilibili dropped as much as 9.4% while food delivery giant Meituan dropped as much as 8.6%. China’s No. 2 online retailer JD.com fell as much as 7.2% and Tencent declined as much as 4.2%.

“China is at the stage of implementing many tightened policies and rules that the government announced last year on the technology sector,” said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities.

“The range-bound trading and heightened volatility may last through the first quarter.”

The recent spike in US Treasury yields has also weighed on tech stocks across Asia. The MSCI AC Asia Pacific Communication Services Index dropped as much as 2%, the most since December 20.

Read: The JSE’s best-performing tech shares in 2021

SoftBank Group Corp-backed search engine operator Z Holdings Corp fell as much as 4.1% while chipmaker Samsung Electronics Co declined as much as 2.5%.

On a more positive note, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd outperformed after Daily Journal Corp – a newspaper and software business that counts Charlie Munger as chairman – nearly doubled its holding of the Chinese internet giant in recent months.

(Updates throughout, with assistance from Jeanny Yu, Zheping Huang and Edwin Chan).

© 2022 Bloomberg

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Plastic – the curse of the century.

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