The largest Chinese internet companies are seeing their shares fall to levels they haven’t seen within the last three years since an unconstitutional crackdown by the government wiped out hundreds of billions of dollars of market value, but it’s probably not the best time to look for bargains as more headwinds are well on the horizon.

The government remains just as determined to reduce the influence of giants’ companies on the market including billionaire Jack Ma’s Alibaba to billionaire Pony Ma’s Tencent with a flurry of hope that the regulatory burden will finally be wiped out following a year-long campaign. The problems with the policies are a slowing economy and much harder battles for consumer dollars that are stifling already weak growth.

“There are still downsides,” says Shawn Yang, a Shenzhen-based managing director at the research firm Blue Lotus Capital Advisors. “I’d wait and see.”

Alibaba is perhaps the most exposed to the constant risks. The company now trades at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of just 15.9 times for its 2022 fiscal year which ends this March, compared with an average of 31.3 times between 2017 and the present, according to Ming Lu, an analyst with Aequitas Research. He publishes his research on the research platform Smartkarma. It’s possible that the stock is priced at a bargain given the company’s still dominant market share in China’s massive market for online shopping, prompting billionaire investor Charlie Mungerto spot an excellent deal but the company’s latest earnings results have good reasons to be cautious.

Alibaba is struggling with China’s lower retail spending and fiercer competition from rivals such as ByteDance that is drawing customers away from live-streamed shopping shows. After absorbing an unprecedented $2.8 billion anti-monopoly fine last April, the company is no longer stop brands or merchants from moving to other sites and demand that they sell exclusively on its platforms.

Alibaba’s revenue grew just 10% year-over year to $38 billion during the December quarter. This makes for the slowest growth ever since the company became public in the year 2014. Net income fell as much as 74 percent up to $3.2 billion, in part due to the transfer of goodwill and the loss of value in its investment portfolio. Excluding those, net income would have fallen 25 percent to $7 billion.

“Alibaba’s problem is that, first of all, e-commerce is a very competitive area,” says Alex Wong, director of asset management at Hong Kong-based Ample Finance Group. “And regulations are being targeted; it may not be that aggressive when competing with those smaller companies.”

Hong Hong Kong listed Tencent Tencent, which is scheduled to release its fourth quarter results near the end of March It also faces its fair troubles. Regulators haven’t endorsed for any games since the end of July and this is the second long-term freeze after 2018, when the country suspended gaming approvals for more than 10 months in order to improve control over the content as well as game-play. Cui Chenyu who is a Shanghai-based analyst for the research firm Omdia, says the suspension could be due to authorities’ desire to safeguard children and improve the game which could lead to addiction. It is not clear whether or when licensing changes will soon be issued There is also possibility that the halt could last until the end of this year.

The current uncertainty has created more market turmoil. Tencent dropped more than 5% last Monday, when an anonymous blog post suggested another round of crackdowns targeting the company, which prompted its head of public relations Zhang Jun to issue an usually aggressive response to debunk the idea. The company now trades with a forward P/E ratio of 24 times, down from a five-year mean that was 38.4 times.

It is not clear how long the enforcement will last. This week, authorities released new guidelines for food delivery companies to reduce the amount they charge restaurants. which caused the industry leader listed in Hong Kong Meituan to fall 15% and drop $26 billion of market value on the same day.

Brock Silvers, a Hong Hong Kong-based chief of investment at Kaiyuan Capital, cited regulatory risks and said his allocation to China’s tech stocks is currently zero. Ample Finance’s Wong admitted that he’s cut down on the amount he invested in tech-related shares.

“In the past, they were a cornerstone of my portfolio,” Wong states. “But they are not a so significant part right now, and I will wait for a change in the macro environment to add a lot.”


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