HONG KONG: Chinese gaming and social media group Tencent said on Tuesday (Sep 15) it will open a new office in Singapore that will be its regional hub for Southeast Asia.
The new hub comes on the heels of a planned expansion by TikTok owner ByteDance and investment by Alibaba as firms look to deepen their exposure to fast-growing Southeast Asia - home to about 650 million people.
Singapore has also gained fresh appeal as a base for Chinese corporate operations, benefiting from the political tensions that have rocked rival hub Hong Kong and growing distrust of China in the United States and other parts of the world.
Tencent will develop a full-scale comprehensive hub in Singapore that will house its international game publishing business, said a source with knowledge of the matter, who was not authorised to speak to media and declined to be identified.
"The new office is a strategic addition to our current offices in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand," the company said in response to CNA's queries.
"The Singapore office will also enable us to capture potential from the rapid pace of digitisation and meet the demand for Internet-based services and solutions in Singapore," Tencent added.
Listings on LinkedIn showed Tencent job openings in Singapore, with positions including data scientists, business development managers, operations managers and data analysts.
"We view Tencent's decision as a necessary step to extend its enterprise service offering (Tencent's cloud computing business) to this new market," said Alex Liu, an analyst with China Renaissance.
He also noted Tencent had several minority investments in Southeast Asia such as its stake in Singapore online gaming and e-commerce firm Sea, and has been making deeper forays into the region's gaming market.
Alibaba, which owns Singapore-based e-commerce firm Lazada, this year bought a 50 per cent stake in a Singapore office tower. It is in talks to invest US$3 billion in Grab, Southeast Asia's biggest ride-hailing firm and Singapore's most-prized tech firm, Bloomberg news agency has reported.
In addition to the Chinese investments, America's Zoom has recently opened a new data centre in Singapore.
The plans highlight Tencent's international ambitions despite setbacks in India where some of its apps have been banned.
Earlier this month, India banned 118 Chinese apps as it stepped up economic hostilities against China over disputes along their Himalayan border.
New Delhi said several Chinese apps promoted activities "prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India". Tencent said its apps complied with India's data protection laws and that it would engage with local authorities to clarify its policies.
In August, US President Donald Trump issued executive orders banning any US transactions with ByteDance and Tencent, owner of the WeChat app.
The order would effectively ban WeChat in the United States in 45 days by barring "to the extent permitted under applicable law, any transaction that is related to WeChat by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with Tencent Holdings".
According to Tencent's chief technical officer, the firm understood that the executive order was focused on its WeChat app in the United States and not on its other businesses in the country.