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Top China money manager retains faith in Tencent despite fall in market value

Hong Kong

CHINA'S tech darling Tencent Holdings Ltd has lost US$71 billion in market value since January, but that's not shaking the faith of one top money manager.

Caroline Maurer, head of greater China equities at BNP Paribas Asset Management, is keeping more than 9 per cent of assets invested in Tencent, across all funds allowed to hold the stock. That's even after the Shenzhen-based company fell 12 per cent from a record set in January, buffeted by a global technology rout and concern over shrinking margins and a lack of new games.

To Ms Maurer, the bears are too short-sighted. Tencent and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd remain her top China Internet picks as smaller rivals won't be able to achieve the rapid growth that those firms did in the past.

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Tencent's WeChat app, for example, has more than one billion active users. And when you're sitting on such a huge user base, it's relatively easy to deliver the next "big hit", be it in games, cloud-based services, payments or artificial intelligence, she explained.

"I'm relaxed about it," Ms Maurer, who oversees about US$1 billion, said of owning Tencent in the recent slump. "When you have a billion users, you just monetise it gradually. You don't have to deliver all the earnings in a year."

Tencent's shares have soared over the past decade, more than doubling last year alone. By its record close on Jan 23, the company was valued at 51 times earnings.

Even today, it trades at almost 12 times book value, with a market capitalisation of US$506 billion.

"Things can get short-term expensive on just a few quarters," Ms Maurer said in Hong Kong. "That's fine."

According to her, the game business is resilient to economic downturns, and there's no point trying to guess when the next blockbuster will come. "I don't see a significant change in the sustainability or viability" of Tencent's business model, she added.

Ms Maurer oversees several funds for BNP Paribas Asset. They include the Parvest Equity China A-Shares Fund, which has beaten 99 per cent of peers over the past three years, according to Bloomberg data. Her Parvest China Classic Fund, for example, counts Tencent and Alibaba as its largest holdings, the data shows.

Ms Maurer is also sticking with another group of companies that have performed strongly recently and are seen by some investors as expensive: drugmakers.

She's holding on to stocks including CSPC Pharmaceutical Group and Sino Biopharmaceutical Ltd after boosting stakes at the end of last year.

She also remains a long-term bull on Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine Co, citing the firm's spending on R&D, which she says is the largest among all health-care companies in companies in China. BLOOMBERG