Tencent CEO Can't Dodge WeChat Fans' Fee Fears at Airport

Photographer: ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Tencent has worked with carriers to address their concerns about  WeChat, CEO Pony Ma said.  Close

Tencent has worked with carriers to address their concerns about  WeChat, CEO Pony Ma said. 

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Photographer: ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Tencent has worked with carriers to address their concerns about  WeChat, CEO Pony Ma said. 

Pony Ma's message doesn't seem to be getting through.

The billionaire and CEO of Tencent Holdings has more than 300 million users of his free Internet messaging app called WeChat, or Weixin in Chinese. But many of those folks are worried that the nation's wireless companies -- which are losing revenue from declining text message traffic -- will force him to start charging for the service. Ma has repeatedly said the company won't charge for Weixin, but his fans still bug him every chance they get.

"In the past month I took a business trip and as I was headed from Beijing back to Shenzhen, when I came through the airport security, they saw my name and recognized me," Ma told the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing yesterday. "They asked me directly, 'Is Weixin going to charge the users?' I said no. No charge."

In the past month, Tencent has worked with carriers to address their concerns about the impact of WeChat on traditional text revenues, and they have found "preliminary solutions," Ma said, without explaining them.

Users remain worried that Ma's statements are just a marketing ploy.

"It's not marketing," Ma said. "We are not good at hype."

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Edmond Lococo in Beijing at elococo@bloomberg.net

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