Tencent shares see slight recovery after 4-day slide in wake of co-founder Pony Ma selling off HK$1.3 billion of stocks, WeChat flaw

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 September, 2015, 9:20pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 September, 2015, 6:05pm

Shares of Tencent Holdings recovered slightly on Friday after heading south for four consecutive days in a week marked by its co-founder's hefty share sale, reports of a senior executive's departure and the scramble to fix a serious flaw in WeChat.

Shenzhen-based Tencent, Asia's largest internet company, saw its share price rise 0.23 per cent to finish at HK$131. That was still down 3.2 per cent from last Friday's close of HK$135.30.

Co-founder Pony Ma Huateng, the chief executive of Tencent, sold a total of HK$1.3 billion (US$412.9 million) of his shares in four transactions between September 19 and September 22, according to a Hong Kong stock exchange filing.

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He disposed a combined 23.85 million shares to reduce his personal stake in the company to 9.37 per cent from 9.62 per cent. 

VC Brokerage director Louis Tse ​Ming-kwong said on Thursday that the series of transactions by Ma left retail investors speculating about his reasons.

"Mainland China's economy is sliding, so the local market is asking whether Ma wanted to realise gains now because he is anticipating a further downturn," Tse said. 

He said others have speculated that Ma was simply in the process of diversifying his own investment portfolio and making arrangements for a personal acquisition. 

According to Forbes, Ma had a net worth of US$16.3 billion as of Thursday. He was ranked as the third-richest person in China and 11th in the technology industry.

Citing sources, a Bloomberg report on Wednesday said Tencent mergers and acquisitions chief Richard Peng Zhijian was leaving the company after seven years to start his own investment fund.

It said Peng led Tencent's transformation into the most acquisitive Chinese company by participating in at least 90 deals worth about US$19 billion.

Dick Wei, the director of equity research at Credit Suisse in Hong Kong, said Tencent still had a strong mergers and acquisitions team with chief strategy officer James Mitchell, who worked in investment banking for 16 years.

"James will still drive much of the big mergers and acquisitions strategy," Wei said.

The mobile application for Tencent's popular WeChat mobile-messaging service was among dozens infected with malicious software in Apple's online App Store last week. 

The malware, called XcodeGhost, can launch phishing attacks to dupe recipients into giving personal data.

Separate analyses conducted by security firms Palo Alto Networks and Qihoo 360 Technology, as well as reports by major domestic internet companies, found that the security breach happened because a number of mainland app developers were enticed by hackers to use a fake version of Xcode -- Apple's software toolkit for building apps for the iPhone and iPad -- from an alternative website that claimed to be reputable and offered faster download speeds.

In an interview with media portal Sina this week, Apple senior vice-president for worldwide marketing Philip Schiller said downloading Xcode from overseas servers takes mainland developers up to three times longer, compared with US developers who can each complete the process in about 25 minutes.

Schiller said it was Apple’s hope to solve that issue by hosting Xcode on servers within mainland China.  

WeChat's engineering team said in a blog post that their investigation showed there were "no theft and leakage of users' information or money". A new version of WeChat has been made available for download to fix the security breach.