China’s top antitrust regulator is looking into Tencent’s WeChat for monopolistic practices and how the popular messaging app had possibly squeezed smaller competitors, Reuters reported, citing anonymous sources. 

Why it matters: The latest development in China’s antitrust campaign indicates that Tencent, the country’s largest social media and gaming company, might be the next tech behemoth to be targeted. The company had previously been sued by rivals for anti-competitive behaviors.

Details: Wu Zhenguo, the head of China’s State Administration of Market Regulation (SAMR), expressed concern about some of Tencent’s business practices, and asked the firm to comply with antitrust rules when he met with Tencent founder Pony Ma this month, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing two people with direct knowledge.

  • SAMR was gathering information and looking into WeChat’s business practices, and how the super app—China’s largest instant messaging app with more than 1 billion users—may have competed unfairly against smaller rivals.
  • Ma, Tencent’s low-key chief executive, was in Beijing this month for China’s annual parliamentary meeting and visited the SAMR office two weeks ago. He met with SAMR officials to discuss compliance at his company.
  • Tencent did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Context: SAMR had previously targeted Tencent in its antitrust actions. It fined a Tencent affiliate in December over unreported acquisition and merger deals and punished Tencent earlier this month for the same reason.

  • Tencent is also involved in a lawsuit with Douyin, ByteDance’s Chinese version of TikTok, which accused the company of violating China’s antitrust law by blocking Douyin’s content on its WeChat and QQ instant-messaging apps.
  • Tencent is about to report its fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday. The company is expected to report a 42% rise in its quarterly profit, according to Reuters, but analysts said the investor focus will be on regulatory developments.

Wei Sheng

Writing about semiconductors and telecommunications.