Tencent and China’s online education providers are the latest to feel the strong from Beijing’s rumbling crackdown on the country’s big tech companies, though the financial effects are being felt much more widely than just the local stock market.
In London, New York and Europe there were falls for many of the funds that are fully focused on China or the emerging markets funds that have a heavy weighting to the country.
Most notable among them was FTSE 100-listed investment trust Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust PLC (LSE:SMT), where four of its top 10 largest positions being Chinese companies, and where Tencent Holdings Limited (HKG:0700) was until recently its largest holding.
Many of London’s other most popular investment trusts are focused on the People’s Republic and were among the big fallers, including Fidelity China Special Situations PLC (LSE:FCSS), Baillie Gifford China Growth Trust PLC and JPMorgan China Growth & Income PLC.
The biggest emerging markets exchange-traded funds were also all in the red, including the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (where Alibaba and Tencent are its second- and third-largest holdings) and the Xtrackers MSCI Emerging Markets UCITS ETF (where top 10 holdings include Alibaba, Meituan, China Construction Bank, JD.com, Tencent and Ping An all from China).
Beijing regulators have swung their guns from target to target over the past year, starting with a probe into online shopping platform Alibaba Group (NYSE:BABA) that resulted in it being a US$2.8bn for abusing its market position.
Other probes and fines have been meted out to a range of high-profile companies, including ride-hailing app DiDi Global, messaging apps Weibo and QQ and video-sharing app Kuaishou.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s planned US$37bn initial public offering for his Ant Group finance business was brought tumbling down to earth by Beijing regulators, with reports varying over whether the reason was Ma’s challenge to the country’s state-controlled financial system, the general unease about Chinese companies listing in the US, or the group’s complex ownership structure linked to political families who could represent a potential challenge to President Xi and his inner circle.
This week’s moves, which include barring digital media colossus Tencent from acquiring exclusive music copyright agreements, and restricting the online education industry's profits and levels of foreign investment, undoubtedly have a political angle in a country where the government's influence is never far away.
But despite many of the biggest companies coming under fire, fund managers seem confident of the ongoing attractions of the country.
Scottish Mortgage’s Tom Slater just weeks ago said that “the pace of innovation at scale in China now exceeds anything we can find in the rest of the world” and he and his team were looking for the next generation of companies as they think “there are still some really big opportunities in that market”.