By Sam Nussey
TOKYO (Reuters) - Nintendo shares jumped 13 percent in early Tokyo trade on Friday, a day after China's Tencent won a key approval to begin selling Nintendo's Switch console in China, the world's largest games market.
That is the biggest percentage gain since July 2016, when enthusiasm for hit mobile game Pokemon Go sent Nintendo shares rocketing. Friday's jump sent the stock to its highest level since October and pushed its year-to-date gain to 32 percent.
Nintendo's U.S.-listed shares rose 12 percent overnight after the Chinese province of Guangdong approved Tencent to distribute the Switch console with a test version of the "New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe" game.
The Kyoto-based games maker has been hampered by Japanese regulations and the search for a partner in its efforts to bring its hybrid home-portable Switch console to China, holding back the development of console gaming there.
Nintendo shares sold off towards the end of last year over concerns about weakness in its Switch games pipeline. Media reports saying Nintendo will launch a low-price Switch version have helped bolster sentiment in recent weeks.
It remains unclear when the console may go on sale in China, with games needing to clear a separate approval process.
Chinese gaming industry leader Tencent is trying to recover from a lengthy video game approval freeze in China last year. It is listed in Hong Kong, where financial markets are closed on Friday for a national holiday.
(Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Paul Tait and Christopher Cushing)