HONG KONG — The founder of Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd told employees many “corruption” issues had been discovered within the company and mismanagement was draining its vitality, according to two employees familiar with the matter.
In a rare show of frustration, Pony Ma said at a year-end meeting with staff on Dec. 15 that internal reviews this year had exposed unspecified corruption within Asia’s biggest social media and gaming company, the sources said.
He also lambasted senior managers after one of the toughest years for Tencent since its founding in 1998, with revenue battered by a regulatory crackdown and headwinds from measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Your projects can’t even survive as a business – they are living on life support, but still you just cheerily play ball on the weekend,” Ma said during the call, according to one employee who heard the comments and another who was briefed on them.
Tencent did not respond to a request for comment. The sources declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
The meeting was first reported by Chinese local media outlet Jiemian.
Tencent reported a second straight quarterly revenue drop last month as China’s economic slowdown and regulatory scrutiny hit its ad and gaming businesses.
Up to the previous quarter, Tencent had reported double-digit growth for almost every three-month reporting period since going public in 2004.
Ma, who mostly stays out of public view, also said the company needed to focus on short video for future growth, and described the WeChat Video Account, Tencent’s short video platform, as the “hope” of the Shenzhen-based company, the sources said.
He warned that the video gaming business group would have to get used to Beijing’s strict licensing regime, and the number of new games China would approve would remain limited in the long run. (Reporting by Josh Ye; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Stephen Coates)