Tencent Holdings (0700.HK), which dominates China’s instant messaging market with its QQ service, plans to develop its product to target English, Japanese and French speakers, Bloomberg reported. The company also plans to set up a social networking site in English early next year. Tencent boasts 637 million QQ user accounts – more subscribers than Facebook has globally – but user growth has been slowing in China, as have sales of online games. The company has already spent more than US$300 million expanding into Russia and Thailand, largely through joint ventures with South Africa’s Naspers (NPN.SJ), which is also Tencent’s largest shareholder. The new foreign-language versions of QQ are seen as an extension of this strategy, but the company says its initial target market is expatriates in China and overseas users with acquaintances in the country. Should Tencent try to take its services overseas, analysts are skeptical about the chances of the company challenging the likes of Microsoft (MSFT.NASDAQ).
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