Tencent worth more than Facebook

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Tencent in Shenzhen, China. Flickr/Chris Yunker CC BY

BEIJING (AFP) – Chinese social media and video game giant Tencent became more valuable than Facebook yesterday as investors sent the company soaring into the top five of the world’s biggest firms.

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Tencent’s Hong Kong-listed shares have doubled in value this year, and on Monday it became the first Asian company with a market capitalisation of half a trillion dollars.

By the end of the trading day yesterday, Tencent’s outstanding shares were worth a combined 4.08 trillion Hong Kong dollars ($523 billion), surpassing Facebook’s $519 billion.

Despite its stratospheric climb, Tencent is still some way behind the world’s most valuable company, Apple, which is currently valued at $873 billion.

Last week, Tencent said profit had grown nearly 70 percent in the third quarter, when compared with the same period last year, well outpacing expectations. Its accelerating growth has sent its shares shooting higher in recent days.

Critics say many of China’s tech companies copy the latest idea seen in the US. That has not been the case for Tencent, which has transformed its WeChat smartphone app into a product wholly unlike other social networking applications seen around the world.

“Tencent is an enterprise that focuses on innovation,” said Huang Hao, an associate researcher at the National Academy of Economic Strategy of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “Its product ideas are not simple emulations of those of foreign businesses.”

But it also has a distinct advantage over some of its western peers: Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China, cutting off a market of up to 1.3 billion people.

The nearly one billion users who flock to Tencent’s WeChat app, and older platform QQ, can chat, post photos, play games, transfer money and pay for a variety of services in China. They exchange 38 billion messages each day.

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