Tencent chairman Pony Ma sets confident tone for internet giant in 2024 amid WeChat’s improved business prospects, sources say

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The 52-year-old Ma, who kept a low profile during China’s 32-month crackdown on Big Tech firms, delivered that positive message in a speech before Tencent’s annual staff meeting on Monday at a stadium in Shenzhen, the company’s home city in southern Guangdong province.
Founded in November 1998, Tencent must find new lifelines in its video gaming and social media operations, Ma told employees at the event, according to two sources who were in the meeting. He expected 13-year-old WeChat, in particular, to grow further as “an old tree should put forth new buds”.

Ma, who wore a sombre dark jacket onstage, said Tencent’s developers had worked hard to build new products to help bolster the company’s vitality in the past year, despite weakness in China’s post-pandemic economic recovery, according to the people who listened to his speech.

Tencent Holdings co-founder, chairman and chief executive Pony Ma Huateng sets a positive tone for the internet giant’s business prospects this year at its annual staff meeting on January 29, 2024, in Shenzhen. Photo: SCMP

Tencent did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Ma’s optimistic tone at Monday’s event was in stark contrast to his message to employees in a December 2022 town hall meeting, where he said cost-cutting efforts would continue in 2023. He also indicated that there must be a renewed focus on the firm’s core businesses and chastised employees for a lack of urgency when it comes to improving efficiency.
The Tencent chairman’s encouraging speech comes several months after he sung the praises of the Chinese government’s 31-point action plan, which offered policy solutions to shore up the country’s private sector.
While its Hong Kong stock price declined over a quarter in 2023 partly because of its biggest shareholder Prosus’ divestment, Tencent’s stock performance was relatively stable compared to other Chinese Big Tech firms amid a broad market slump. Meituan dropped 60 per cent during the same period, while China’s No 2 video short video service provider Kuaishou Technology lost nearly 40 per cent.

US$3 billion top Asia fund bets on Tencent again despite China gaming rules

On Monday, Ma praised WeChat – known as Weixin on the mainland, where it has more than 1.3 billion monthly users – for making substantial progress via its Channels service, a short video and live streaming business that competes against ByteDance-owned Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok.

Ma said Tencent, which runs the world’s largest video gaming business by revenue and China’s biggest social media operation, was also nurturing “new buds” such as mini-programs and mini-games to further enhance WeChat’s business. This year, the company would also expand its overseas video-gaming operations, he added.

Dutch group Prosus trims Tencent stake again with stock near 2023 lows

Ma also told employees to maintain a calmer attitude amid the government’s regulatory initiatives, according to parts of the speech reported by Chinese media outlet Jiemian on Monday.

That move came as the Chinese government tried to shore up investor confidence in its capital markets.

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