The prominence of Chinese technology companies is impossible to avoid these days, and the company of the moment is Tencent. Competitor Alibaba is better known in the West. Huawei, a network equipment company, suddenly is a leader in smartphones. But Tencent is in now in the spotlight because its products are a leading example of Chinese innovation and its balance sheet has become a source of funds for startups around the world.
Tencent is no Johnny-come-lately. It is worth nearly $500 billion, and its WeChat messaging service is how young Chinese people communicate. It’s also a major video game publisher, a payments processor, and many more things. Its success begets so many other successes. Just as Masayoshi Son’s fortunes were secured because of SoftBank’s major stake in Alibaba, Tencent has saved the South African media company Naspers. Its early stake in Tencent is so valuable that investors have rated the core business of Naspers as worthless in comparison.
Tencent flexed its muscles Wednesday when it became known that it had upped its stake in struggling Snap. It owns significant chunks of Tesla, mapmaker HERE Technologies, and many others.
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For years Western audiences have slavishly studied the tactics and techniques of its local champions, like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Those worthies still merit the attention. But so do their new counterparts, whose management methods and product development practices are every bit as innovative. Happily for Data Sheet readers and for Fortune, Tencent CEO Pony Ma will appear at the Fortune Global Forum in Guangzhou next month. It should be a memorable, and important, moment.
Fender bender. Not an auspicious start for the first self-driving bus in Las Vegas, as it brushed against a delivery truck on its first day in action. But the autonomous shuttle, built by the French automaker Navya, was not at fault and the delivery truck driver was given a citation.
Talent poacher. The semiconductor market is getting weird. After Broadcom’s surprise bid for Qualcomm and news that Apple might dump Qualcomm from future iPhones, Intel on Wednesday night said it would develop high-end graphics cards to compete with Nvidia and AMD. And it hired AMD’s just-departed graphics wizard Raja Koduri to lead the effort.
Now that’s volatile. The cryptocurrency market is getting a little weird. A group that was threatening to initiate a spinoff, incompatible format of bitcoin dubbed SegWit2X abandon those plans. Excitement that the split was avoided helped push bitcoin’s price above $7,800 briefly, but then concerns set in about the demise of the SegWit2X dividend and the price plunged to around $7,116 by Thursday morning.
No soup for you. It’s become apparent from the reaction to last week’s Taylor Swift-Data Sheet crossover that there are more than a few fans of the pop star amongst our readership. They may be sad to learn that Swift’s new album, due out tomorrow, will probably not be immediately available on streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify. (Headline video reference.)
Good ratings. It was a banner first-ever quarterly report for newly-public Roku. Revenue jumped 40% from last year to $125 million, better than the $110 million Wall Street expected, and a net loss of 10 cents a share was also better than the forecasts. Most of the upside was on the advertising side, as price cuts on Roku’s popular video streaming boxes turned a 35% unit increase into just 4% more revenue. Roku’s shares, which were priced at $14 in its IPO in September and closed at $18.84 on Wednesday, rose 28% to $24.15 in premarket trading on Thursday.
Jack Dorsey’s other company. Payments processor Square, saw adjusted revenue jump 45% to $257 million and adjusted earnings of seven cents rose from one cent a year ago. But lending growth slowed and Square’s shares, which have about tripled so far this year, fell 2% in premarket trading.
Keeping Tim Cook busy. Some folks want Apple to buy Netflix and make a $100 billion bet on the future of TV. Meanwhile, Apple is building its own video business, show by show. On Wednesday came news that Apple would back a drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon about a morning news show based on CNN reporter Brian Stelter’s book Top of the Morning. Also, Bloomberg reports Apple is working on an augmented reality headset, aiming to hit the market by 2020. (I’m sure it will be cooler than Google Glass.) Apple also fired back at law enforcement sources complaining that they couldn’t crack the iPhone of Texas mass murderer Devin Kelley. Apple said it reached out to the FBI to offer assistance as soon as it heard about the device.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
A double dose of Taylor Swift news? Why not? The pop star’s wise ways online provide lessons for all. Joe Coscarelli at the New York Times digs into Swift’s personal interactions with fans on the microblogging site Tumblr. While cutting back on interviews and public appearances, Swift is a constant presence in posts and comments on her Tumblr page, Coscarelli notes:
By tending to her base with such bespoke dedication — and with the looming possibility of firsthand contact — Ms. Swift can breed loyalty in listeners while focusing on positive vibes only. She plucked hundreds of fans from social media to hear “Reputation” early, at Secret Sessions held at her homes in Rhode Island, Los Angeles, London and Nashville.
“Tumblr allows her to focus on the people who matter to her,” said Megan Chesney, 17, who blogs as ohtaylorswiift. “She gets to talk directly to her fans and eliminates all of that drama and excess hate on Twitter or Instagram.”
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BEFORE YOU GO
Among the many interesting results in Tuesday’s elections was a vote in Fort Collins, Colorado that may be notable to Data Sheet readers. Despite a big opposition campaign from the cable and telecom industry, a ballot initiative to establish a city-owned broadband provider passed with 57% of the vote. Take that, cable guy.