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腾讯 中国杀手级应用制造大厂

时间:2016-12-24 00:37 点击:

Xu Ye is a thoroughly modern metropolitan millennial. She reads science and cultural articles on the way into work, takes and dispatches orders from her boss, lunches on organic produce in an NGO-run community garden and picks up artisanal bread on the way home.


By Chinese standards, she says, her life in Shanghai is “peculiar”. But in one key respect it is utterly typical: like hundreds of millions of her compatriots, she carries out much of her daily life over Weixin, a wildly popular messaging app, on her smartphone.


Her connected lifestyle is largely thanks to Tencent, a $225bn internet company whose social platforms have become a part of the very fabric of Chinese lives. For people like Ms Xu, Tencent’s myriad apps and services offer a way to work, play and pay.


It is, says one banker, “a social enterprise powerhouse”: under one roof, it has amassed China’s answer to Facebook, WhatsApp, Spotify, Kindle and ApplePay. Chi Tsang, internet analyst at HSBC, says Tencent has “the most killer apps in the world”. Weixin, along with the WeChat app outside China, has 846m active monthly subscribers.

一位银行人士表示,它是“社会企业巨擘”:单单一家公司就汇集了中国版的Facebook、WhatsApp、Spotify、Kindle和ApplePay。汇丰银行(HSBC)互联网分析师曾琪(Chi Tsang)表示,腾讯拥有“全球最多的杀手级应用”。微信加上海外版的WeChat总共拥有8.46亿月度活跃用户。

Tencent also has a huge multibillion investment portfolio, ranging from stakes in Didi Chuxing, China’s biggest ride-sharing company, through to start-ups. It dabbles in artificial intelligence, electric cars and bike sharing. Its posse of champion hackers managed to gain remote control of Tesla’s Model S, forcing the US carmaker to roll out a security patch.

腾讯还有为数众多的大手笔投资,持有中国最大驾乘共享公司滴滴出行(Didi Chuxing)的股份,也参股了多家初创企业。腾讯还涉足人工智能、电动汽车和共享单车领域。腾讯的顶级黑客成功地远程控制了特斯拉(Tesla)的Model S,迫使这家美国汽车制造商推出了一个安全补丁。

“They started with distribution and now they are monetising everything they can,” says Scott Likens, a partner in the emerging tech practice at PwC. “It is the opposite of the traditional business where you’ve got the product and say, ‘Now let’s find the customers’.”

“他们先从渠道做起,如今正试图在所有力所能及的业务上实现货币化,”普华永道(PwC)新兴技术业务合伙人李敬思(Scott Likens)表示,“传统企业先弄出产品,然后说‘现在让我们寻找客户吧’,腾讯却相反。”

Fittingly, it is based in Shenzhen, a fishing backwater turned bustling metropolis across the border from Hong Kong. It was here that Deng Xiaoping in 1992 launched the then-isolated country on its rollicking ride into capitalism, and today it is China’s answer to Silicon Valley.


The company employs 3,000 workers, more than half of whom are in research and development. While its home market is by far and away the largest, Tencent has an overseas presence in many sectors — its WeChat payments app can even be used at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

腾讯有3000名员工,其中超过一半从事研发工作。目前腾讯最大的市场在本土,但也在海外涉足众多行业,其WeChat支付应用甚至可以在拉斯维加斯的凯撒宫酒店(Caesars Palace)使用。

“They are everywhere, the US, Europe — especially among Chinese speakers because if you want to contact business or family in China there is only one way to contact them, and that’s WeChat,” says Elinor Leung, a research analyst at CLSA.

里昂证券(CLSA)研究分析师梁向奕(Elinor Leung)表示:“到处都在用,美国,欧洲——特别是在华语人群中,因为如果你想要联系中国的生意伙伴或家人,一般都只会用WeChat。”

Alongside Baidu and Alibaba, it is one of China’s three largest internet groups (they are collectively known as BAT). But its Hong Kong listing, in June 2004, differentiates Tencent from its rivals, which headed to the US capital markets.


That decision alone won it accolades. “Tencent has a better corporate governance than Google or Facebook,” says Richard Windsor, founder of independent research company Radio Free Mobile, pointing to its spurning of the dual-class shareholding allowed in the US but banned in Hong Kong.

腾讯选择香港为上市地受到了赞誉。独立研究公司Radio Free Mobile创始人理查德.温莎(Richard Windsor)表示:“腾讯的公司治理水平好于谷歌(Google)和Facebook。”他指的是腾讯放弃了在美国允许但在香港禁止的双重股权结构。

Strategically, however, it has evolved along similar lines to its Silicon Valley peers, says one banker. “Tencent has had a typical US-style upbringing: for the first three to four years [after its initial public offering] it did nothing; [management] just delivered on what they said they would.”


That steady push up the ranks is typical of its founder, Pony Ma (his name is a pun: Ma means horse in Chinese). Unlike his namesake Jack Ma at Alibaba, Tencent’s Mr Ma shuns the limelight and favours a low-key sartorial style that colleagues and acquaintances say is emblematic of his nerdy persona.

这种稳扎稳打的做法体现了腾讯创始人马化腾(Pony Ma)的风格,与同宗的阿里巴巴的马云(Jack Ma)不同,马化腾不喜欢成为公众关注的焦点,他衣着低调,同事和朋友说这符合他的书呆子形象。

An engineer by training, the 45-year-old is listed as the world’s 46th richest man by Forbes, with a net worth of $21.9bn. But he prefers philanthropy over a splashy lifestyle, with the only conspicuous display of his wealth being a palatial home in Hong Kong.


Paying for content


Mr Ma started Tencent in 1998 as the messaging service QQ — not in a garage, Silicon Valley-style, but in a high-tech park in Shenzhen, jammed between hustlers selling pirated phones and PC repairs. Online gaming was added in 2004 and is now the group’s major revenue driver, accounting for Rmb18.2bn ($2.6bn), or almost half of its third-quarter sales. Unlike NetEase, its Chinese rival, Tencent has largely licensed rather than produced its own games.

1998年,马化腾创办了腾讯,推出即时通讯服务QQ,不是像硅谷公司那样在车库创办,而是在深圳的一个科技园,那里满是销售山寨手机的贩子和个人电脑(PC)维修商。2004年,腾讯涉足网络游戏,如今网游已成为其主要收入来源,今年第三季度实现销售额182亿元人民币 (合26亿美元),占集团近一半。与本土竞争对手网易(NetEase)不同,腾讯基本上只代理游戏,而不是自己制作。

This year, however, it doubled down on its bet by paying $8.6bn for a majority stake in Clash of Clans developer Supercell, passing on some of the cost to a consortium of investors and keeping the Finnish developer’s management in place.

不过今年腾讯加大了在游戏上的赌注,斥资86亿美元购入芬兰游戏开发公司Supercell多数股权,由一个投资者财团负担部分成本,并保持Supercell管理层不变。Supercell出品的游戏包括《部落冲突》(Clash of Clans)。

“They have a long-term view on gaming,” says one banker, who reckons half of all deals they look at on a daily basis fall within the sector. “They are definitely looking outbound.”


More generally, content — specifically exclusive, copyrighted content — is a top priority for Tencent. It operates on a “freemium” revenue model, offering some content free and charging at the premium end.


This, Mr Tsang says, plays into “the increasing propensity of China users to pay for content” — something they initially shunned, turning instead to pirated movies and music.


“Over the past two years the government has cracked down on pirated content and even the ones you still get, the quality is so bad relative to what you can get from Baidu and the others,” he says. “And the operators have got smarter about putting quality content behind the paywall.”


Thus Tencent, which has exclusive coverage in China of the NBA basketball championships, can charge viewers Rmb22 a month for a basic subscription and Rmb60 for premium viewing.


Like Alibaba, Tencent “has gone well beyond copying [the west],” adds another banker. “They are inventing and reinventing what their businesses should be”. Tencent’s Moments feed on WeChat prefaced Facebook’s addition of Messenger and the $22bn acquisition of WhatsApp.


Payments are another case in point. China’s online third-party smartphone payments market dwarfs that of the US: iResearch estimates it to be worth Rmb15.7tn in 2016 — 28 times the $62.5bn forecast by eMarketer for the US in 2017 — and Rmb28.5tn in 2018.


It is dominated by Alipay, which is operated by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial and has more than half the market, but TenPay ranks second with a 38.3 per cent share in the third quarter, according to Citibank.

支付市场由支付宝(Alipay)主导,后者由阿里巴巴旗下蚂蚁金服(Ant Financial)运营,占有逾一半的市场份额,但花旗银行(Citibank)数据显示,今年第三季度财付通(Tenpay)以38.3%的份额排名第二。

Tencent’s Mr Ma said in May that the average number of mobile transactions exceeded 500m a day, and that over Chinese new year — when it is traditional to hand out hong bao, or red envelopes of money — more than 2.5bn virtual packets were distributed across its platform.


Tencent favours a cautious approach to monetising its database of active monthly users. Rather than blitz Moments with ads and risk the sort of backlash dished out to Facebook, Tencent has restricted itself for now to a maximum of one ad per user each day.


UBS estimates WeChat Moments’ ad load at about 1 per cent of non-advertising content, compared with 7-10 per cent for Facebook, leaving big scope for growth. In 2015, online advertising made up 17 per cent of revenues.


China’s mobile ad market was worth Rmb90bn in 2015, according to iResearch, up 178 per cent year on year, and is forecast to grow at a compound annual rate of 54 per cent from 2015 to 2018.


Yet monetising the subscribers — and its database — offers the real keys to the kingdom for China’s BAT contingent and their global peers.


Native ads are increasing in China, as elsewhere, and Tencent is helping to rewrite the rules of engagement for digital advertising. Take the entertainment show A Date with a Superstar, produced by Tencent and sponsored by L’Oréal, whose cosmetic products twirl across the screen. Ad Age describes the show as “essentially a giant commercial”.

与其他地区一样,中国原生广告日益增长,腾讯正帮助改写数字广告的业务规则。以腾讯制作、欧莱雅(L'Oréal)赞助的娱乐节目《约吧,大明星》(A Date with a Superstar)为例,欧莱雅的化妆品飘浮在屏幕上。广告时代(Ad Age)将这个节目描述为“本质上是一部商业大片”。

Other consumer goods companies are following suit with similar partnerships. “They’re attracting the big spenders who have been active in TV and are now embracing online advertising,” says one analyst.


Not everyone buys the monetisation story. Mr Windsor argues that Tencent’s different platforms make it harder to aggregate and exploit the big data they are sitting on. QQ and WeChat have yet to be fully integrated, for example.


“I don’t see Tencent being ready to grab this opportunity in 2017, and so in the short term a slowdown looks inevitable,” he says.


Big data, Big brother


Calling China home offers the BAT companies a huge advantage: international competitors are largely locked out and the trio owe at least part of their success to the absence of the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google.


However, calling communist China home has a darker side, and an Orwellian shadow hangs over the BAT.


The first is straightforward censorship. Usefully for its global expansion, Tencent’s WeChat operates two systems of censorship, with users registered outside China able to access more sensitive words than those inside the country.


Potentially more insidious are China’s plans to build a social credit rating system based on online behaviour. At face value, this plugs a glaring gap. China’s rapid but uneven development means only an estimated 20-30 per cent of the population is covered by the existing rating system, says Alfred Shang, a financial services partner at Bain & Co.

更隐秘的审查可能来自中国基于在线行为建立社会信用评级体系的计划。表面看来,这能填补一个明显的空白。贝恩公司(Bain & Co)的金融服务合伙人项安达(Alfred Shang)表示,中国快速但不均衡的发展意味着,估计只有20%-30%的人口被现有的评级体系覆盖。

The fears in China go beyond being excluded from loans due to their online profile. Some fear the plan, published by Beijing last year and due to roll out nationwide by 2020, aims to use algorithms and big data to rate citizens’ “honesty” and “trustworthiness” alongside their creditworthiness. At the worst, say privacy advocates, the system is designed for mass surveillance.


“I kind of worry if Chinese users are going to push back against that,” says one analyst. “A credit score is one thing, but a social score seems a little bit overstepping that.”


PwC’s Mr Likens adds: “I think there’s a dangerous slope. You are getting access to really personal data now. You are getting into who I am as a person and that does bring up some concerns.”


The plan is ambitious and observers question the ability to roll it out by 2020. Until then — and probably afterwards as well — the big data amassed by Tencent and its peers are primarily viewed at face value: a fabulous treasure trove of consumer information on shopping, eating, travelling and wealth.


Additional reporting by Yuan Yang


Looking for unicorns: Buying spree puts Valley VCs in shadeTencent is an avid dealmaker. In the past 18 months the company has spent $37.65bn on acquisitions, according to Dealogic data — more than the $26.6bn spent by Sequoia, the Silicon Valley venture capital group, over the same period.


Supercell, the Finnish games group behind Clash of Clans, tops Tencent’s list. But there is a long tail of smaller deals that falls broadly into two categories — stakes in big tech players in China and smaller incubation-style deals. “They’re out there looking for unicorns,” as one banker puts it.

腾讯最大规模的并购交易是收购了推出《部落战争》(Clash of Clans)的芬兰游戏集团Supercell。但还有其他一长串较小规模的交易,这基本上可以分为两类,一类是买进中国大型科技集团的股权,另一类是较小的孵化器风格的交易。一位银行家表示:“他们在那里寻找独角兽企业。”

That makes it distinct from Alibaba, which is less keen on minority stakes. But there is another difference, notes Elinor Leung, an analyst at CLSA: Tencent is building a business ecosystem on top of a social network while Alibaba has a business ecosystem and is building a social platform.


Tencent’s stakes in China’s tech world include Didi Chuxing, the taxi hailing app now part owned by Uber and Apple; ecommerce website JD.com; the Craigslist-style 58.Com; and food delivery app Meituan-Dianping. All of these sites accept TenPay.

腾讯入股的中国科技企业包括现在由优步(Uber)和苹果(Apple)部分持股的叫车服务应用滴滴出行(Didi Chuxing);电商网站京东(JD.com);Craigslist风格的58同城(58.com)以及送餐应用美团点评(Meituan-Dianping)。所有这些网站都接受财付通支付。

“They are just putting everything on their platform,” says Ms Leung.


Tencent is helped in its investment endeavours by having bankers at the top. Both Martin Lau, president, and James Mitchell, chief strategy officer, are Goldman Sachs alumni.

腾讯有银行家担任高层职务,这有助于其投资活动。总裁刘炽平(Martin Lau)和首席战略官詹姆斯.米切尔(James Mitchell)都曾在高盛(Goldman Sachs)工作过。

Rival lawyers and investment bankers express respect about Tencent’s approach to cutting deals. “No renegotiations, no dramas,” says one party who has sat around the table with them.


Adds another: “They are very principled, very progressive. and Chinese to just the right level.”


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