Pony Ma, the founder of Tencent Holdings, China’s biggest social media and video games company, met with antitrust watchdog officials this month to discuss compliance at his group, reported Reuters.
The meeting is the most concrete indication yet that China’s unprecedented antitrust crackdown, which started late last year with billionaire Jack Ma’s Alibaba business empire, could soon target other internet behemoths.
Beijing has vowed to strengthen oversight of its big tech firms, which rank among the world’s largest and most valuable, citing concerns that they have built market power that stifles competition, misused consumer data and violated consumer rights.
Tencent, whose WeChat messaging and payment mobile app is ubiquitous in China, is expected to be the next in line for sharper antitrust regulatory inquiries, said the three people.
News of the meeting, which has not been previously reported, came ahead of Tencent’s December quarter results on Wednesday, in which the company reported a forecast-beating 175% rise in quarterly profit, helped by a surge in gaming revenues.
Speaking to reporters following the earnings announcement, Ma said the company was “working actively” with regulators on compliance, including combing through some of its previous investments. He did not refer to the meeting.
Tencent President Martin Lau said the company’s interaction with the antitrust watchdog was part of the normal course of business.
“We, Tencent, conduct meetings with regulators on a regular basis and this is one of the regular meetings that we have,” Lau said.
“During the meeting, we had a discussion about a broad range of topics, and the main focus was actually on creating a healthy environment for innovation.”
Ma, who seldom gives media interviews and had been out of the public eye for more than a year, was in Beijing this month for China’s annual parliamentary meeting and visited the State Administration of Market Regulation (SAMR) office the week before last, said the people.