Tencent's Ma gives away $2b in shares to charity

Pony Ma has become the latest tech billionaire founder to hand over part of their fortune to charity.
Written by Chris Duckett on

The founder of China's Tencent Holdings Ltd, Pony Ma, plans to donate 100 million company shares, worth more than $2 billion, to a yet to be established charity foundation.

Ma, one of China's richest with an estimated fortune of $18.8 billion, said the donation will go towards supporting medical, educational, and environmental causes in China.

Hong Kong-listed shares in Tencent, China's largest social network and online entertainment firm, closed up 0.24 percent on Monday, making the donation worth about $2.1 billion.

"After 10 years of exploration and participation in philanthropic activities, I increasingly feel that there is a need for a more longer-term, efficient, and organised way to give back to society," he said in a statement on Monday.

An October survey of China's super-rich found China has overtaken the United States as the country with the most billionaires.

Ma's large donation is unusual in a country where philanthropy has yet to take off.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett made headlines in 2010 when they asked 50 of China's richest people to a philanthropy dinner.

A third turned the invitation down, reportedly due to fears they would be pressed to donate money.

At the end of last year, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, pledged to give away the majority of their fortune.

The pair said they would hand over 99 percent of their shares in Facebook to the Chan Zuckerberg initiative, a foundation dedicated to "advance human potential" and promote equality. It is set to initially focus on personalised learning, curing diseases, connecting people, and building strong communities, it says.

Enterprise WeChat launched

On Monday, a business-focused version of Tencent's WeChat messaging program was released in China, The Wall Street Journal reported, dubbed Enterprise WeChat.

The program reportedly allows users to keep track of annual leave days and expenses, as well as performs the standard communication tasks enterprise users expect from alternatives such as Slack and Yammer.

Tencent's QQ browser was recently found by Citizen Lab, a research group within the University of Toronto, to be transmitting personally identifiable data with little or no encryption, leaving users open to man-in-the-middle data collection.

"QQ Browser phones home information on your device's hardware serial numbers, and tracks your location and every page you visit," said Jeffrey Knockel, senior researcher at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs. "Even the person you trust most does not have access to this amount of information on you, and yet QQ receives it from everyone who uses their browser."

With AAP

Updated 7.22 pm AEST 19 April 2016: Clarified that Ma is not giving shares to Tencent Foundation.

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