Tencent Holdings shares worth US$7.6-billion (R132-billion) appeared in Hong Kong’s clearing and settlement system, spurring speculation that a large stakeholder is gearing up to offload more shares.
About 192 million of additional shares, representing about 2% stake in the Chinese tech giant, were registered on the system as of Wednesday, according to city’s exchange website.
The move is typically seen as a precursor to further selling. South Africa’s Naspers — which invests via its Dutch unit Prosus — and Tencent founder Pony Ma are among investors whose stakes exceed that size.
Investors are pointing to likely selling by Prosus, which has been reducing its stake in Tencent to fund a buyback programme. Tencent shares slid as much as 2.3% on Thursday, taking their loss since a June high to more than 20%.
Worries that its dominant backer is stepping back, combined with Tencent’s weakening sales and persistent regulatory pressure, have weighed on share prices even as the firm has been repurchasing in the open market recently on an almost daily basis.
“People are worried that the big holder will keep selling their stake and there is no timetable when their sale will end,” said Steven Leung, executive director at Uob Kay Hian (Hong Kong). “This kind of changes in the clearing system will always trigger worries that more selling will happen in near future.”
Naspers didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. — Jeanny Yu and John Cheng, (c) 2022 Bloomberg LP