Pony Ma, chief executive of Tencent, the Chinese tech giant which owns WeChat, told reporters yesterday that the app had reached 1 billion user accounts worldwide in February. The Financial Times report from the National People’s Congress in Beijing, to which Ma is acting as one of the 5,000 delegates.
A spokesperson for Tencent later clarified that Ma had in mind “user accounts” when he said “users”. Market research firm eMarketer estimates that WeChat has in fact 494.3 million individual users in China as of 2017. Tencent, also China’s most valuable listed company, reported in September that WeChat user accounts had grown 15.8% annually.
With more Chinese migrants using the app abroad to keep in touch with friends and family back home, overseas growth has been impactful despite limited popularity among Westerners. According to Matthew Brennan, founder of WeChat-focused consultancy ChinaChannel “much of the growth in [accounts] is likely to have come from overseas, in south-east Asia, Europe, and the US.”