Culture&Arts

Tencent Says Subsidy War with Alibaba Set to Continue After Beating Profits

Tencent Says Subsidy War with Alibaba Set to Continue After Beating Profits

China's largest social media and gaming company posted a faster than expected 61 per cent jump in net income last quarter as growth on mobile bounced back, outstripping estimates by nearly a third. Earnings reported in the fourth quarter of 2017 underwhelmed investors and concerns were rising that spending increases could hit margins.

China's largest social network operator reported net income of 23.29 billion yuan (US$3.65 billion) in the quarter ended March 31, beating average market expectations by about 30 per cent. Revenue reached 73.53 billion yuan, up 48 per cent from the same time previous year, driven by online advertising, online games and messaging services. Gross profit margins in its cloud and payment businesses also improved. That's partly thanks to a one-time gain of nearly 7.6 billion yuan from its investments in arenas like video and news.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, the operating margin actually fell.

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Shares of Tencent closed little changed before earnings were released. That's despite the company reporting that capital expenditure in the quarter was up 200 percent to 6.3 billion yuan.

Overall, Tencent as a company pulled in RMB 73,528 million (~$11.7 billion) in revenue for the quarter, a 48 percent increase year-over-year, and RMB 23,973 million (~$3.8 billion) in profit, a 65 percent increase year-over-year.

"The results were good even without the one-time gains, but the gains made it even better", said Bhavtosh Vajpayee, a Hong Kong-based research analyst at Bernstein. Revenue from Value Added Services, which includes online games and messaging, rose 34 percent to 46.9 billion yuan. The company has however been leery of barraging its users with ads - on Wednesday, it declared it had raised the maximum number of ads that customers see on WeChat Moments, a function similar to Facebook's newsfeed, to just two a day from one previously.

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Honour of Kings continues to be a core source of earnings. Fortnite has been developed by video game developer Epic Games who Tencent has a stake in - the game is now unavailable in China, but there are plans to launch the game in the region in the coming months. Tencent said that there was "double digit growth" in terms of daily active users for the game.

The company is exploring ways to integrate short video into its social network platforms, Tencent chairman and chief executive Pony Ma Huateng said in March during annual parliamentary meetings in Beijing. PC-based games, meanwhile, took in sales of 14.1 billion RMB ($2.2 billion) to remain flat over the past 12 months.

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