Tencent loses €17bn in value after China attacks myopia with gaming curbs

Shares fall by more than 5% as authorities suggest plans may limit number of online games

China’s Ministry of Education, in a notice late on Thursday, directed the publishing regulator to limit the number of new online video games

China’s Ministry of Education, in a notice late on Thursday, directed the publishing regulator to limit the number of new online video games

 

Tencent Holdings’ market value slumped by around $20 billion (€17 billion) on Friday after China intensified a crackdown on online gaming citing rising levels of myopia, heightening regulatory risks for companies in the world’s biggest gaming market.

China’s Ministry of Education, in a notice late on Thursday, directed the publishing regulator to limit the number of new online video games, take steps to restrict the time young people spend playing games and explore an age-appropriate system for players.

Beijing’s directive was included in a document published on the website of the ministry outlining how China should respond to worsening rates of myopia, or near-sightedness, among young people, and blamed the spread of mobile phones and other electronic devices partly for it.

The curbs are the latest challenge for Tencent, China’s largest gaming and social media firm, which earlier this month blamed a freeze on new game approvals for the technology giant’s first quarterly profit fall in nearly 13 years.

Shares of Tencent, which has a market value of around HK$3.25 trillion ($414.12 billion), fell as much as 5.4 percent, leading a slide in Chinese video game companies. It closed down 4.9 percent. The main Hang Seng Index ended 1 percent lower.

Tencent has lost more than $160 billion in market value from its peak in January, chiefly on regulatory uncertainty, and now trails arch rival Alibaba Group to be Asia’s second biggest listed company by market capitalisation.

The massive plunge in its market value compares with Netflix’s current market capitalisation of $162 billion.

Tencent did not immediately respond.

More than 450 million of China’s 1.37 billion population suffer from myopia, with the condition increasingly affecting children, according to statistics announced at a National Health Commission conference in June.

The document published on the Ministry of Education’s website on Thursday blamed the high levels of myopia on a heavy study load, the spread of mobile phones and other electronic devices, and a lack of outdoor activities and exercise.

It called on parents to limit the amount of time their children spend using mobile phones and other electronic devices, and recommended children spend over an hour outdoors every day.

Analysts said while the regulatory overhang could put pressure on game-related shares, top developers will be less impacted.

“We expect leading developers to show relative resilience by lengthening lifecycle of existing game franchise and expanding overseas presence,” Jefferies said in a research note.

It estimated Tencent accounted for 42 per cent of China’s mobile game market share in 2017.

Founded in 1998, Tencent’s main business is video games but the company also runs China’s dominant social network, WeChat, with more than 1 billion users. - Reuters