Tencent losing its innovative spirit, claims online blogger

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Tencent chairman Pony Ma Huateng Photo: Youtube

Some say that Tencent Holdings is too big to fail, but has it also become too big to dream? So says freelance blogger Pan Ran, who believes the firm has lost its innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.

The critic posted a 10,000-word article charging that the China-based  technology conglomerate had become merely an investment company.

Tencent made headlines last year for its investments in Tesla and Snapchat, while it spun off China Literature and Yinxi. It is likely Tencent Music also will be spun off later this year.

But while many of the investments had paid off, the blogger said  Tencent had become short-sighted and utilitarian. The company had also lost ground in its core strengths such as internet searches, microblogs, electronic commerce, short videos and cloud services.

The comments attracted a quick response, apparently from chairman Pony Ma Huateng through his WeChat account. Ma denied his firm had lost its way, saying he had not deviated from his initial concept.

“From writing the first line of code, my wish is to create the best product, not about how much money to make,” Ma wrote.

Ma explained that Tencent made investments based on its core competencies because he knew the most important ingredient for a social media product was generating user traffic. He said it made sense to expand in different business lines, but also to invest in non-core businesses — letting other professionals run these offshoots to achieve the maximum allocation of resources and efficiencies.

History had shown, Ma said, that he needed to re-examine his team from time to time because he could not possibly do everything by  himself. And product innovation was something he always has in mind.

The response attracted plenty of interest, but Tencent is now saying that it didn’t come from Ma. The company’s public relations executive, Zhang Jun, posted on his weibo account that the message was fake, though he accepted that those responsible had good intentions.

No doubt the debate over Tencent’s future direction will continue, but it is the market that will have the final say. Tencent shares fell more than 20% from their peak three months ago, dragged down by the weakness in global technology stocks and the firm’s high valuations.

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