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Best managed companies in Asia 2014: Tencent shows its worth

Pony Ma has built a Chinese internet company that competes on a global scale. It is no wonder that analysts rate it and its management so highly.

Board a subway train in Hong Kong or Shanghai and chances are you will find yourself surrounded by people furiously tapping away on smartphone services provided by Shenzen-based Tencent, China’s largest internet company.

This is by no means solely an underground phenomenon. Step up to street level and your progress will almost certainly be checked by gaggles of feet-dragging, headphone-wearing, teenage girls staring fixedly at WeChat on their mobile devices, through which they are ‘talking’ to any one of the other 200 million or so people doing exactly the same thing.

Pony Ma has become a cult figure for China’s aspiring internet entrepreneurs
Pony Ma has become a cult figure for China’s aspiring internet entrepreneurs

Since being founded in 1998 by Ma Huateng, or Pony Ma, as he is widely known, Tencent has become the third-largest internet company in the world behind Google and Amazon, with a market valuation of more than $100 billion – bigger than Twitter and Yahoo combined. At the time there were an estimated 4 million internet users in China. Now that number is close to 600 million. The hype surrounding the potential initial public offering of Tencent’s leading Chinese rival, Alibaba, has reached fever pitch, but Tencent has been public for nine years, underlining its standing as a trend setter for the industry.

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