When a Chinese Company Almost Bought Out WhatsApp

If there is one time-travel movie I want made – it would be about the year 2014.

This is how it would play out:

A time-traveler goes back in time to stop Mark Zuckerberg from buying WhatsApp. He goes back in time to ensure Pony Ma doesn’t run into his critical back surgery – ultimately leading to Pony Ma buying out WhatsApp. And then we see how a world where WhatsApp is Tencent-owned looks like.

If you are wondering what is my fantasy all about here’s the historical trivia: In 2014, Tencent was on the brink of buying WhatsApp for about $9 billion.

And then came a moment that perhaps has more repercussions on business today than we realize: Tencent CEO Pony Ma had to undergo a critical back surgery.

Pony Ma, the Chief Executive Officer of Tencent. Credits: FT

Zuckerberg got the wind of Ma’s proposal to WhatsApp – he panicked and doubled Tencent’s offer to WhatsApp before Pony Ma could recover and bought it at $19 billion.

And as they say: the rest is history. But then Pony Ma wouldn’t be deterred with one missed deal. What he did in the following years is fodder of business case studies.

Tencent HQ in Shenzhen. Image credits: NBBJ

There is so much I want to talk on Tencent – the first company in Asia to cross $500 billion valuation mark and amongst the world’s most valued companies.

With the current business wars between Trump and China, what do you think would have happened had WhatsApp been bought by China-based Tencent?

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