Tencent's Ma pledges compliance with regulators
Tencent Holdings Ltd head Pony Ma said he will cooperate with antitrust regulators as big technology companies in China are facing intense scrutiny for monopolistic behavior that could stifle innovation.
The internet giant is "working closely with the government and the regulators on compliance matters", the chief executive officer of Tencent said during an earnings call on Wednesday, after the company reported surging profits last year.
Martin Lau, president of Tencent, said Ma's "voluntary" meeting earlier this month was one of the regular meetings with the government that cover a broad range of topics including regulatory oversight.
"The main focus was actually on fostering a healthy environment for innovation," Lau said.
The statements came as the world's top gaming company raked in 482.1 billion yuan ($73.9 billion) last year, up 28 percent from a year earlier as COVID-19 lock-down boosted gaming internationally and the Chinese spent more through Tencent's WeChat Pay mobile wallet. Net profit jumped 71 percent to 159.9 billion yuan.
Latest quarterly results also beat analysts' expectation, with net profit for the three months ending December nearly tripling to a record 59.3 billion yuan, while revenue rose 26 percent to 133.67 billion yuan.
Cash cow segment online gaming surged 36 percent to 156.1 billion yuan. The company said its game title King of Glory was the top-grossing mobile game globally for the second year in a row.
"As for antimonopoly concerns, (Tencent's) management (team) reiterates the focus on user value and innovation and has been self-constraining on monetization and maintaining prudent business practices," said Alicia Yap, an analyst at Citigroup Global Markets Asia Ltd in a research note.
Tencent's income generated from social networks, represented by the 1.2 billion user super app WeChat, rose 27 percent to 108.1 billion yuan.
"By leveraging the traction of its video account to capture the growing trends and embracing business partners with its technology innovation in cloud services offerings and industrial internet digitalization efforts, we remain positive on Tencent delivering stable, sustainable growth as it navigates through the dynamic competitive and regulatory environment," Yap said.
China has stepped up efforts to guide the healthy development of internet-backed platform economy and prevent abuse of monopolistic status by misusing consumer data or violating consumer rights. For instance, a relevant probe into e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd commenced in December.
In a document introduced on Monday, four Chinese government departments including the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the Ministry of Public Security have listed clearly the necessary personal information that 39 categories of apps can collect.
The document, set to come into effect on May 1, is a clear signal that apps should refrain from obtaining excessive and detailed personal information, let alone monetize such data, said Zhu Xia, a lawyer at Zhejiang Kin Ding Law Firm.
"In the internet sphere, data and privacy will increasingly come under spotlight as the sense of personal information protection rises," said Zhu, who is also a contributing research fellow at the Internet Economy Institute, a consultancy.