Tencent Holdings, Asia's largest internet company, will set up e-commerce and internet finance companies in Shenzhen's Qianhai economic zone to tap the mainland's testing ground for more liberal financial policies.
The company will invest at least 10 billion yuan (HK$12.69 billion) in Qianhai, said Jerry Huang, a director of investor relations at Tencent. Qianhai was created in 2010 to test freer yuan usage and capital-account convertibility.
Tencent is competing against Baidu and Alibaba, founded by billionaire Jack Ma Yun, to win shoppers and investors in online wealth products among the mainland's 591 million internet users. The investment in Qianhai could help Tencent venture into loans and expand e-commerce, said Jim Antos, an analyst at Mizuho Securities in Hong Kong.
"They're following Jack Ma and Alibaba," Antos said. "If they could provide working capital finance to smaller companies, they're going to get more usage of their site, the smaller company will be happy, and they're going to be happy, and they could make interest on the loan they give."
Tencent is waiting for more details about the financial policies coming out of Qianhai, Huang said. The companies in the zone have a registered capital of about 1.6 billion yuan, he said.
The microfinance unit of Alibaba, the mainland's largest e-commerce company, has extended in excess of 120 billion yuan to more than 500,000 small online businesses since starting three years ago, an Alibaba spokeswoman said in October. The average size of the loans is about 30,000 yuan and the non-performing loan ratio is less than 1 per cent, she said.
Chinese internet companies are also creating online investment products that provide higher returns than the benchmark one-year savings rate in China.
Alibaba's financial affiliate created Yu'E Bao, an online fund product that has raked in over US$16 billion from 30 million Chinese users by November 14.
In October, Baidu, owner of China's largest internet search engine, offered "Baifa", an online money-market fund managed by China Asset Management. The product attracted more than one billion yuan of investment from over 120,000 customers on its debut, according to a Baidu spokesman.