An advertisement for Tencent Holdings Ltd's WeChat app in Beijing. The company became the fastest-growing brand in China, with its brand value up more than 90 billion yuan ($14.78 billion). [Photo / Provided to China Daily]
Internet firms surge in rank as banks hold fast
The Chinese Internet industry has been growing by leaps and bounds this year, with leading service providers seeing the value of their brands soar, Interbrand, the world's largest brand consulting firm, said on Wednesday.
It's the sixth time Interbrand has released its Best China Brands List.
The rankings are compiled using companies' sales revenue, independent consumers and market research.
Shenzhen-based information technology service provider Tencent Holdings Ltd became the fastest-growing brand in China, with its brand value up by 84 percent to more than 90 billion yuan ($14.78 billion).
Tencent's stupendous growth dwarfed 2012's fastest-growing Chinese liquor brand Kweichow Moutai Co's 30 percent and saw it leapfrog from eighth place to No 4 in 2013.
Most agree its rapid growth can be largely attributed to the success of its instant messaging tool WeChat. The number of WeChat users increased by four times to reach 400 million.
"Tencent has devoted much effort to build its brand by providing first-rate service to its customers, which is the core value of the company," said Thomas Chen, managing director of Interbrand China.
Tencent's ascendancy is in line with a trend seen in this year's Forbes' China Rich List, said Russell Flannery, Shanghai bureau chief of Forbes China, as Internet businesses are bringing in the most wealth in 2013.
Pony Ma, co-founder and chairman of Tencent, is ranked fifth on Forbes' 2013 list, with a personal wealth of 62.2 billion yuan, up from 39 billion yuan last year.
Search-engine service provider Baidu Inc saw its brand value surge by 57 percent to put the company at No 11 on this year's list. Its growth rate is the fourth-fastest among the top 50 brands. Baidu's rapid growth also has brought wealth to Chief Executive Officer Li Yanhong, who is ranked third on this year's Forbes China Rich List, with a personal net worth of 67.7 billion yuan.
Chinese Internet portal Netease Inc also saw its ranking rise, from 32nd place last year to 29th.
It should be noted that the Chinese largest e-commerce service provider Alibaba was not on the list as no public financial information was released as the company prepared to go public.
With the world's fastest-growing brands worldwide all Internet companies, "China is finally catching up with the international community in this regard," said Yao Chenggang, strategy director of Interbrand China. No Chinese firm, however, was in the top 100 of Interbrand's Best Global Brands 2013 list.
Although the nation's biggest telecom operator, China Mobile, topped the Best China Brands list, its brand value shrank by 7 percent to about 196 billion yuan this year from about 210 billion yuan a year ago.
"It is an inevitable trend to go digital and mobile these days. A new structure has been formed, with Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent taking the most shares of the market," said Tang Yaqian, deputy strategy director of Interbrand China.
"China Mobile has, of course, sensed the tight competition and realized the timeliness of changing its strategy," Tang said, adding that "being more customer-oriented is of utmost importance in the process of its restructuring."
Banks still take the lion's share of the top 50 brands in China, with 13 banks shortlisted. Even they, however, are increasingly reliant on the Internet industry.
China Merchants Bank, seeing its brand value increase by 13 percent to put it in ninth place on the list this year, has been running its WeChat official account quite successfully. Inquiries on the account get answered within 3 seconds, as compared with phone inquiries, which could take up to 60 seconds.
According to Tang, the mobile account "helps to increase China Merchants Bank's credibility and, of course, its customer loyalty."
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