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The Big Story

In China, private companies walk a fine line

Being part of the political machine means taking policy calls seriously

KENJI KAWASE, Nikkei Asian Review chief business news correspondent | China

HONG KONG -- It is uncommon for Pony Ma Huateng, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Tencent Holdings, to proactively pick up reporters' questions at briefings. Usually he leaves that job to his right hand man, President Martin Lau Chi-ping, and other executives, but when it came to the Communist Party's strategic initiative on urging foreign-listed tech companies to list at home, Ma jumped in.

"If conditions mature and other circumstances permit, we will consider it," Ma said at the company's full-year results announcement in March. Tencent is headquartered in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, but it is listed in Hong Kong. Its market capitalization as of May 21 was 3.87 trillion Hong Kong dollars ($493.9 billion), putting it neck-and-neck with New York-listed Alibaba Group Holding, at $507.8 billion, as the most valuable Chinese company.

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