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Tencent, the $500bn Chinese tech firm you may never have heard of

It’s overtaken Facebook, bought stakes in Snapchat, Tesla and Hollywood films, and has quietly risen to rival Google and Netflix

It is China’s web giant and has a string of high-profile investments spanning Snapchat, Spotify, Tesla and Hollywood film and TV. It is a sprawling corporate giant that has recently overtaken Facebook to become the world’s fifth most valuable listed company – but few, in the west at least, will have heard of Tencent, even though it is worth half a trillion dollars and rising.

China is the world’s most populous digital market and the protection afforded by state censorship through the so-called great firewall – which has meant no competition from Facebook, Google, Twitter and Netflix – has helped Tencent flourish since it launched nearly two decades ago in Shenzhen. But in the last year the shares have been supercharged – climbing from less than HK$200 (£18) at the beginning of 2017 to HK$442 now – and the value of the company has soared.

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