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Tencent says WeChat will struggle to attract new U.S. users while White House, courts spar over ban

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: Illustration picture of WeChat app with U.S. and China flags
FILE PHOTO: Illustration picture of WeChat app with U.S. and China flags

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese social media leader Tencent Holdings Ltd <0700.HK> has said its WeChat may not be able to win new users in the United States while the White House challenges a court ruling preventing a ban on the messaging app.

Tencent, in a statement filed at Hong Kong's stock exchange late on Sunday, said it has been evaluating the potential impact of a ban since the U.S. Department of Commerce on Friday issued an order to block WeChat downloads on national security grounds.

It also said routine updates of the app for existing U.S. users may be negatively affected should Apple Inc <AAPL.O> and Alphabet Inc's <GOOGL.O> Google remove WeChat from their stores.

WeChat has a relatively small user base in the United States compared with in China, where the app is ubiquitous.

On Sunday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler said a challenge to the proposed ban has "shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim" so "the balance of hardships tips in the plaintiffs' favor".

Tencent, which has denied being a security risk, said it has engaged and will continue to engage in discussions with the U.S. government and other stakeholders to resolve the matter.

(Reporting by Pei Li; Editing by Christopher Cushing)