When Chinese antitrust regulators sneeze, the music business catches a cold.
Beijing has been cracking down on technology companies, and on July 24, the government gave Tencent Music, the country’s largest audio-streaming company, 30 days to end the exclusive licensing deals that allow it to offer songs that competitors can’t. Months before, another regulator announced an effort to curb online tipping, a major source of revenue for Tencent Music, which takes a percentage of the money that fans send to performers.
These days, however, what happens in China echoes from Stockholm to Los Angeles. Tencent Music’s share price, which hit an all-time high on March 23, fell a whopping 74.6% as of Aug. 23, wiping out $40.1 billion of market capitalization. Among its major shareholders is Spotify, which in December 2017 acquired an 8.4% stake in the company that has dropped in value by $3.6 billion in roughly five months. (Since Spotify co-founder/CEO Daniel Ek owns 16.8% of Spotify’s outstanding ordinary shares, according to the company’s 2020 annual report, that means his indirect stake in Tencent Music has fallen $597 million since March 23.) And among Spotify’s shareholders are Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment.
Separately, Tencent Music’s majority shareholder is Tencent Holdings, which leads a consortium that owns 20% of UMG and purchased 2% of Warner Music Group shares on the open market.
Tencent Holdings, a Chinese internet giant that was worth almost $1 trillion at its peak, had a merger blocked by regulators in July, and in August, a state-run publication referred to games like the company’s flagship Honor of Kings as “spiritual opium.” (Tencent immediately announced that it would limit children’s playing time.)
Since Feb. 18, Tencent Holdings has lost 45.1% of its value — a staggering $431 billion.
The good news for Tencent Music is that it’s not the only Chinese company to face these issues: Beijing also went after the ride-hailing firm Didi over online security violations just two days after it had raised $4.4 million on the New York Stock Exchange. In fact, Beijing’s broad crackdown may even have a silver lining for Tencent since it seems to have caused NetEase to pause its plan to do a Hong Kong spinoff of China’s second-biggest streaming company, NetEase Cloud Music.