Tencent steps up share buyback

HONG KONG • Tencent Holdings Ltd bought back shares for a second day on Monday after its first repurchase in four years spurred speculation the battered internet behemoth may do more to support the stock.

The Shenzhen-based company said it bought 124,000 shares for HK$39.1 million (RM20.75 million) on Sept 10, more than five times the amount it spent last Friday. The previous time Tencent bought stock was in April 2014, when it spent HK$77 million buying shares and spurred a three-day rally.

By starting with a small repurchase, Tencent could be testing market reaction before considering more, said Shawn Yang, an ED of Blue Lotus Capital Advisors who covers the social networking giant. The stock fell 1.8% yesterday to a one-year low, and has lost 35% from its record high in January.

“This is just the beginning — we may see more buybacks from Tencent,” Yang said on Monday before Tencent announced its second round of purchases.

“Buybacks can minimise the downside impact, but they’re not enough to immediately trigger a rebound in the stock price.

“We may continue to see more pressure for Tencent in the short term, but it’s good timing to buy back because it sends a message to the market that ‘look, we are not as bad as you think’.”

The rout in Tencent stock has wiped more than US$190 billion (RM788.5 billion) from its market value amid a global tech sell-off and concerns about earnings in its lucrative games business amid a Chinese regulatory clampdown. It’s still one of the highest rated stocks with an average price target implying a 44% upside from Monday’s close.

Tencent buyers tend to be long-only investors who would prefer to wait until they get more clarity before jumping back in, Yang said. — Bloomberg