Tencent joins China tech trend to set up shop in Singapore

Chinese tech giant Tencent is planning to set up a regional hub for Southeast Asia in Singapore, joining its domestic tech rivals Bytedance and Alibaba in plans to open an office in the city state. 

Reuters reported that Tencent will set up a “full-scale comprehensive hub in Singapore that will house its international game publishing business”. Tencent’s existing investments in the region include Indonesian ride-hailing platform Gojek, KL-based regional streamer iflix and Singapore-based Sea, which operates gaming service Garena and ecommerce platform Shopee.

The decision to double down on Southeast Asia makes sense given the growing resistance that Chinese tech companies are facing in the international markets that they have previously focused on – the US and India – which have both made moves to ban Chinese apps and other technology in recent months. 

Southeast Asia, meanwhile, has a population of around 650 million people, with the demographics skewing young and a rapid uptake of mobile technology. 

Singapore, the most affluent nation in the region, has particular appeal for Chinese companies as the territory has a large ethnic Chinese population, counts Mandarin as one of its four official languages and is regarded as a secure financial hub. Hong Kong, its main competitor in Asia for luring regional offices, has recently been rocked by political tensions. 

In addition, the Singaporean government has been sweetening the deal by offering generous grants and incentives for companies that establish regional headquarters in the city state. US tech and media companies that have already set up offices include Netflix, WarnerMedia, Discovery, Facebook, YouTube and Google. 

Bytedance, which has seen its TikTok app banned in both the US and India, and Alibaba, which has so far avoided international controversy, have both announced plans to expand in Southeast Asia. 

Alibaba already owns Singapore-based ecommerce platform Lazada and is in talks to invest $3bn in Singapore-based ride-hailing firm Grab Holdings. Bytedance has said it plans to invest billions of dollars and hire hundreds of employees in Singapore.