TOKYO – Tencent’s Ma Huateng is having as bad a week as just about any tech billionaire could possibly imagine in 2022.

First came news the e-commerce giant he founded made it onto Washington’s "notorious markets" list, along with Alibaba Group. The US Trade Representative’s office said the AliExpress and WeChat ecosystems “facilitate substantial trademark counterfeiting.”

Next came market-quaking speculation that Tencent is about to join China Inc’s other famous Ma – Alibaba’s Jack Ma – in the regulatory penalty box. Though Tencent denies Beijing is about to pounce, the mini-panic in stocks suggests traders fear the worst.

Then the market rumor mill really kicked into high gear. Some of the chatter surrounded possible scams related to the so-called metaverse, which many consider the next generation of the internet.