Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Martin Hennecke

HSI slips as tech stocks suffer slaps
Agencies and staff reporter Hong Kong stocks fell yesterday as mainland technology equities buckled under the weight of Beijing's regulatory clampdown even as the risk of a slower recovery from the pandemic shadowed global markets. The Hang Seng Index fell more than 600 points with the weight of new-economy shares before closing about 400 points lower with a surge in resources shares. Meituan (3690) and Alibaba Group (9988) fell more than 4.2 percent while Tencent (0700) and Xiaomi (1810) dropped over 2.4 percent. On the other side, PetroChina (0857) rose nearly 5 percent and CNOOC (0883) and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (0386) each rose more than 2.3 percent. China's industry ministry said yesterday it has told the country's internet companies to end their long-standing practice of blocking each other's links on their sites, and officials vowed to take measures against firms that do not fall in line. Restricting normal access to internet links without proper reason "affects the user experience, damages the rights of users and disrupts market order," the ministry's Zhao Zhiguo said. The ministry had received reports and complaints from users since it launched a review of industry practices in July, he added. "At present, we are guiding companies to carry out self-examination and rectification," he said, citing instant messaging platforms as one of the first areas officials were targeting. He did not specify what the consequences would be for companies that fail to abide by the new guidelines. And it was unclear what actions regulators want the big tech firms to take or when. But Alibaba and Tencent executives have said they will comply, publicly espousing a more open Chinese internet. Earlier this year, Alibaba aimed to set up a Taobao Deals lite app on WeChat and had already invited merchants to participate. But Tencent executives said during the company's most recent quarterly earnings call that it was making a priority to lift the user experience and so any opening-up should be measured. Tencent has also been accused of barring rival services on its platforms. ByteDance sued Tencent in February, alleging its rival had violated antitrust laws by blocking access to content from Douyin on WeChat and QQ. Shenzhen-based Tencent responded by labeling the allegations baseless and malicious.

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