Shares of Tencent Holdings Ltd. and rivals plummeted Tuesday after a state-owned Chinese newspaper criticized online gaming as “opium for the mind,” fueling investor concerns that the companies’ popular games could be swept up into a broader regulatory crackdown.
Within hours the article was no longer accessible on the paper’s website, before later reappearing with some of its harsher language removed. Meanwhile, Tencent said it would introduce stricter curbs on younger users.
Tencent’s shares, which had dropped more than 10% earlier in the session, pared some losses after the article disappeared to close 6.1% lower in Hong Kong at 446 Hong Kong dollars a share, matching the more than one-year low it hit last week.
Peers NetEase Inc. and Bilibili Inc. closed 7.8% and 3.4% lower, and American depositary receipts in both companies fell in premarket trading. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Tech Index retreated 1.5%
The state-owned Economic Information Daily published a feature on Tuesday, saying excessive gaming could have ill effects on children and highlighting experts’ calls for tighter regulation.