(Bloomberg) — Chinese investors are turning against the nation’s technology giants, removing a pillar of support that helped the sector through previous market routs.
Mainlanders have sold a net HK$33 billion ($4.2 billion) worth of Tencent Holdings Ltd. shares in July in what is likely to be the biggest monthly outflow in at least a year, Bloomberg calculations show. Their stake in the company has fallen to the lowest since February, the data show. They have also sold a net HK$13 billion of Meituan shares this month, cutting holdings to the lowest since May.
The bearish turn from mainland investors is in contrast to February and March, when they continued buying Tencent stock as it fell. Cheaper valuations kept drawing them in, even as foreign investors bailed out to escape the impact of Beijing’s tougher stance toward digital finance businesses and anti-trust violators.
“The extent and harshness of Beijing’s crackdown have surprised many people,” said Dai Ming, a Shanghai-based fund manager at Huichen Asset Management. “It’s far beyond ‘normal regulation’, a scenario that many of us once priced in. Anything that threatens China’s data security will be heavily punished.”
Tencent, a mobile gaming giant, and Meituan, a dominant player in food delivery, have been swept up in Beijing’s efforts to tighten its grip on Big Tech and reduce inequality. Technology companies have face increased scrutiny since regulators surprisingly halted the initial public offering of Jack Ma’s Ant Group Co. in November last year.
A slew of measures followed to curb the sector’s power, including restructuring of Ant Group, fines for monopoly practices and the removal of auto-hailing giant Didi Chuxing Technology Co.’s app from stores. Regulatory concern has increased in recent days after China ordered education firms to go non-profit.
Tencent fell as much as 5.4% on Wednesday after losing 16% in the past two days. The company said on Tuesday that it suspended user registrations for the social media app WeChat due to a “security technical upgrade” in accordance with relevant laws and regulations. Tencent Mobile Games is among mobile app developers ordered by regulators to fix issus causing “harassing” pop-up messages to appear when opening their apps.
Meituan saw wild swings after losing a record 29% in the past two days.
The two companies, together with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., accounted for more than a half of the Hang Seng Index’s losses over Monday and Tuesday, when the gauge slumped 8.2% in its biggest two-day drop since the 2008 financial crisis.
On Wednesday, mainland investors had sold a net HK$13.4 billion of Hong Kong stocks as of 3:09 p.m. local time, on course for the worst ouflows since February, Bloomberg-compiled data show.
(Adds details about Tencent Mobile Games in fourth last paragraph)
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