,Tencent joined rivals NetEase Inc and XD Inc in an abrupt selloff in early Hong Kong trading after an outlet run by the Xinhua News Agency published a blistering critique of the gaming industry. — Reuters
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Tencent Holdings Ltd dived as much as 10% on Aug 3 after an offshoot of China’s official news agency decried the “spiritual opium” and “electronic drugs” of games, stoking fears Beijing will next set its sights on online entertainment.
The social media giant joined rivals NetEase Inc and XD Inc in an abrupt selloff in early Hong Kong trading after an outlet run by the Xinhua News Agency published a blistering critique of the gaming industry. The Economic Information Daily cited a student as saying some schoolmates played Tencent’s Honor Of Kings – one of its most popular titles – eight hours a day and called for stricter controls over time spent on games.
It spooked investors already on edge after Beijing came down hard on online industries from e-commerce to ride-hailing, triggering a global selloff of Chinese shares that at one point surpassed US$1 trillion (RM4.22 trillion). Nervous investors continue to reevaluate their holdings as they ponder the longer-term ramifications of a crackdown on firms from Jack Ma’s Ant Group Co and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd to Tencent-backed Meituan and Didi Global Inc. Tencent has now shed more than US$120bil (RM507.03bil) or roughly 20% of its market value since the start of last week, when Beijing sharply amped up its campaign.
“No industry or sport should prosper by eradicating an entire generation,” the article said, citing an academic at a state-backed institution.
The concerns Tuesday are bleeding over to Japanese and Korean gaming stocks as well. Shares of Nexon Co, which gets about 28% of its revenue from China, dropped as much as 9.5%, the most since May 13 and their lowest since May 2020.
“You can never pay too little attention to any Xinhua story,” said Ke Yan, a Singapore-based analyst with DZT Research. “The word choice of spiritual opium is especially harsh, it would be surprising if the regulators won’t do anything about this.”
China’s most valuable corporation has run afoul of regulators in the past, most notably in 2018 when watchdog agencies clamped down on gaming addiction and temporarily suspended monetisation licenses, walloping Tencent’s main business. The term “spiritual opium” has in fact been employed in Chinese media in the past to call attention to the prevalence of gaming among youths, tracing back to the era of PC gaming in cybercafes.
In response, Tencent has restricted playing time for minors and imposed other measures to try and curb addiction. Just last month, it installed facial recognition systems for certain games to prevent kids from using their parents’ IDs to buy in-game items. In the fourth quarter of 2020, minors aged under 18 accounted for just 6% of the company’s Chinese online gaming gross receipts.