Tencent CEO set to give 100m shares to charity
THE founder of China's Tencent, Pony Ma, said he plans to donate 100 million company shares, worth more than US$2 billion (S$2.6 billion), to the firm's charity foundation in one of China's biggest philanthropic pledges ever.
Mr Ma, whose fortune is estimated to be about US$18.8 billion, said the donation would go towards supporting medical, educational and environmental causes in China.
The nation has overtaken the United States as the country with the most billionaires, according to an October survey of the super-rich.
However, philanthropy has been slow to take off, with wealthy people preferring to keep a low profile.
"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," Mr Ma said in a statement on Monday.
His pledge was probably the second-biggest ever in China and bodes well for philanthropy in the country, said Wei Peiran, a non-resident research fellow at Harvard University's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, who has studied charitable giving in China.
In 2014, Alibaba Group founder, Jack Ma, and co-founder, Joe Tsai, pledged share options worth about US$3 billion at the time, to newly established charitable trusts.
In an effort to make it easier for Chinese people to donate money and increase transparency surrounding the scandal-hit aid sector, China's parliament passed its first charity law last month.
"China is definitely entering a new era of philanthropic effort," said Mr Wei.
Wealthy entrepreneurs, like the two Mas who are not related, could eventually shift their focus away from running their businesses towards philanthropic efforts, he said.
The Tencent Foundation was established in 2007 and cooperates with other charity organisations, the company said.
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 of them turned the invitation down, reportedly due to fears they would be pressed to donate money.