Pony Ma, the founder and CEO of Chinese internet giant Tencent, said Monday that he plans to donate 100 million of Tencent’s shares to the firm’s charity foundation. The shares in the Hong Kong-listed company closed at HK$165.70 a piece on the same day, which puts the donation at a market cap of about $US2.1 billion.

The shares will be donated through an unspecified period of time and will go towards supporting medical, educational and environmental causes in China through cooperation with charity programs and projects, the company announced.

Despite fevered economic growth, China lags behind when it comes to charity, partly due to China’s tradition of passing fortunes through a family line. An anecdote that best demonstrates this is that a great proportion of Chinese moguls turned down the invitation to a philanthropy dinner invite from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett in 2010 for fear of being asked to make a donation.

In recent years however, a growing number of Chinese billionaires, especially tech bosses, choose to follow a philanthropic model more similar to their western counterparts, including tycoons like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder who committed 99% of his shares to charity initiatives.

After setting up Alibaba Charity Foundation in 2011, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma and his co-founder Cai Chongxin launched a personal charitable trust backed by share options in the e-commerce giant valued at around $3 billion. Baidu also launched a charity foundation in 2010. It is worth noting that company shares are becoming a mainstream means for charitable giving among the super-rich.

Image credit: Tencent

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Emma Lee

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.

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