The Chinese government’s regulatory crackdowns have helped wipe out more than $180bn in value from Tencent and Ant Group, two of the country’s biggest tech companies.
On Friday, the Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) fined multinational conglomerate Tencent and internet company Baidu ¥500,000 ($77,000) each. Tencent was penalised for its investment in edtech company Yuanfudao in 2018, while Baidu was fined for its 2014 acquisition of Ai Nemo.
Since then, Tencent’s market cap has fallen by $65bn after shares fell by 4.4% on Friday and 3.5% on Monday. As of yesterday, its market cap stood at $776bn.
Baidu shares fell by nearly 3% after SAMR levied the fine, but has almost recovered entirely since then.
While $77,000 is an insignificant amount in the context of the two tech firms’ revenues, investors appear to be concerned by Beijing’s growing scrutiny of China’s biggest tech players.
In total, the SAMR fined 12 companies for 10 deals that the market watchdog said violated anti-monopoly laws. Other companies caught in the firing line included SoftBank and Didi Chuxing.
The situation has similarities to when Chinese regulators torpedoed the public listing of Chinese fintech giant Ant Group, which operates the digital payments platform Alipay, just days before its planned floatation last November.
Sources told Reuters on Tuesday that privately held Ant Group is now valued at $200bn, a 37% drop from the $315bn it was valued at ahead of its initial public offering (IPO). Had the public listing gone ahead, it would have been the largest IPO in history and made Ant Group the fifth most valuable company in Asia.
Investors and analysts saw the blocked listing as a move by the Chinese Communist party to curtail the power of Ant Group chairman Jack Ma. The self-made billionaire entrepreneur heads up a tech empire that includes ecommerce giant Alibaba.
In October 2020, Ma publicly criticised the Chinese state, which some believe made his companies a target of Beijing.
According to Bloomberg, the Chinese government wants Alibaba Group Holding to sell some of its media assets over concerns of how much sway the tech company can have over public opinion.
Over the weekend Ant Group chief Simon Hu stepped down for “personal reasons” amid a restructuring that will turn it into a holding company.