Chinese internet giant Tencent has branded its wholly owned subsidiary Sanook Online, a leading Thai web portal, to Tencent (Thailand).
Sanook started in 1998 as a Thai-based web directory and gradually developped into an all-inclusive entity with businesses ranging from web portal (Sanook.com), news portal (NoozUp), music-streaming (JOOX), IM (WeChat), and e-commerce (Sabuy).
Sanook.com claimed over 30 million active monthly users, while JOOX has amassed 22 million users, the report citing data disclosed by the company. To bring these figures into perspective, Thailand’s internet population is 41 million as of June this year; the country has around 68 million people.
Tencent already holds a 49.2% stake in Sanook through a 81.7 million HKD (10.52 million USD) deal completed in October 2010. Different from strategic investments, Tencent is playing a hands-on role in the management of the Thai company with seats in the board. As the local partner, Sanook runs WeChat and JOOX, the in music-streaming platform backed by Tencent, in Thailand.
Tencent Thailand will focus on three businesses in the future: news portal business led by Sanook Online and iPick, entertainment and multimedia by JOOX and Tencent Games, and services by Top Space, an advertising agency, according to the local media report citing Managing Director Krittee Manoleehagul.
As the domestic market has become saturated, the battle among Chinese internet companies is expanding to Southeast Asia market, the first stop for their global expansion. Tencent’s arch-competitor Alibaba is also aggressive in the region with investments in e-commerce platform Lazada, PayTM, and third-party payment service Ascend Money.
The entry of heavy-pocketed Chinese internet giants may lead to fiercer competition for local startups, but on the bright side, the trend will also bring lots of positive effects.
“It’s encouraging to see a lot of similarities between China and SEA. Our current landscape is very similar to China’s of five to ten years ago. For this reason, we expect China to play two key roles for SEA startups: as a provider of strategic capital and as a knowledge-sharing partner”, Joel Neoh, founder of Malaysia’s top gym pass and O2O company KFit, said in a previous interview with TechNode.
Image Credit: Tencent Thailand
This post is updated on 17:55 December 28th to clarify that Sanook has been renamed to Tencent (Thailand) as of December 19th, 2016 rather than an acquisition.