Tencent, the Chinese company behind the popular messaging platform WeChat, has built a more than $2 billion stake in Snap, the California-based parent company of Snapchat,  acquiring 12 percent of its stake in a move that could see the groups collaborate on gaming and news.

Snap's disclosure in a U.S. regulatory filing that Tencent had recently bought 145.8 million of its shares on the open market set off a wave of speculation among investors about the relationship between the firms.

“It’s an innovative company with a huge user base in western markets and we saw an opportunity between the two [companies] with news feed and mobile game publishing,” said a Tencent spokesman.

Tencent had been an investor in Snap for several years before the latter went public in March. The latest increase in its stake means the Los Angeles-based company now has two key corporate shareholders, with Tencent joining Comcast, the US cable group that invested $500m through its NBC Universal unit earlier this year.

“Tencent is excited to deepen its shareholding relationship with us, and that it looks forward to sharing ideas and experiences,” Snap said in its filing.

The $2 billion holding ranks as the fifth largest involving a Chinese company acquiring or taking a stake in a US tech group, according to S&P Global.

Tencent first became an investor in Snap in 2013. The total size of its investment has not been disclosed. Although Snap's shares began to trade publicly in March in the hottest debut of a U.S. tech stock in years, results since then have sent Snap shares down below its IPO price of $17.


Snap Down

Shares in Snap closed at $12.91 on Wednesday, down 14.6 percent, as investors pummeled the company for slow user growth and treated Tencent's move as an investment rather than the precursor to an acquisition.

Tencent's shares do not have voting power and it will not have a board seat, but the two companies broadly believe in cooperation that goes beyond passive investing, according to Snap's filing on Wednesday. Tencent on Thursday described a potentially close relationship.

"The investment enables Tencent to explore cooperation opportunities with the company on mobile games publishing and newsfeed as well as to share its financial returns from the growth of its businesses and monetization in the future," it said in an emailed statement. It also referred to the potential for "newsfeed ads".

Games and a newsfeed have not been a part of Snapchat, although the company on Tuesday said it was planning a redesign.

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