Tencent is turning to the dividend playbook to get investors excited about its sagging shares.
The gaming and social networking giant turned in a solid performance for 2018, with annual revenue up 32% to a cool 312.7 billion yuan ($46.80 billion), and annual operating profit up a less impressive 8% to 97.7 billion yuan, according to its latest financial report. But its profit tumbled more than 30% in the fourth quarter, as Tencent and its gaming peers suffered under a regulatory freeze on new game titles, which was finally lifted in January.
In a bid to boost sentiment towards its sagging stock, the company proposed a dividend of HK$1 ($0.13) per share, turning to a commonly used corporate tactic to make its stock more attractive. Tencent’s Hong Kong-listed shares shed nearly 30% last year as investors fretted about the gaming approval freeze. They have gained back some of that this year amid a broader rally on China’s domestic stock markets.
Despite all the headwinds, Tencent contends that gaming remains a robust profit engine.
Its 2018 mobile gaming revenue increased 24% to 77.8 billion yuan, amid strict regulation on content production and children’s gaming addiction prevention that were separate from the freeze on new title approvals. PC games posted annual revenue of 50.6 billion yuan, down 8%, as players adopted more mobile options and the new title freeze dampened business.
Advertising, based on Tencent’s powerful WeChat and QQ social networking services, generated annual revenue of 58.1 billion yuan, up 44% year-on-year.
The company says 2019 will be all about infrastructure construction and cutting-edge technology. Internet of things will remain a crucial strategic area, and expanding gaming businesses in overseas markets is also on the agenda.