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Tencent’s Pony Ma now China’s richest person

Surpassing Jack Ma.
Ma Huateng is Chairman and CEO of Tencent. Image: Justin Chin, Bloomberg

Tencent’s $40 billion surge this week and the recent ascent of Pinduoduo Inc. have reshaped the landscape of China’s richest people.

The country’s largest game developer has surpassed Alibaba Group as Asia’s most-valuable company, with its shares rising above HK$500 ($64.50) in intraday trading Wednesday for the first time ever. Pinduoduo, a Groupon-like shopping app also known as PDD, has more than doubled this year.

The rallies have propelled the wealth of their founders, with an added twist: Tencent’s Pony Ma (also called Ma Huateng), worth $50 billion, has surpassed Jack Ma’s $48 billion fortune, becoming China’s richest person. And Colin Huang of PDD, whose net worth stands at $43 billion, has squeezed real estate mogul Hui Ka Yan of China Evergrande Group out of the top three earlier this year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The coronavirus outbreak has pushed forward the digitisation of the workplace and changed consumers’ habits, boosting shares of many internet companies. Now tech tycoons are dominating the ranks of China’s richest people. They take up four of the top five spots: Ding Lei of Tencent peer NetEase Inc. follows China Evergrande’s Hui.

‘Perform strongly’
Tencent has come a long way since hitting a low in 2018, when China froze the approval process for new games. Since then, the stock has almost doubled, and the tech giant reported last month a 26% jump in revenue for the first quarter.

“Tencent’s online games segment will probably perform strongly through the Covid-19 pandemic, and most of its other businesses are relatively unscathed,” said Vey-Sern Ling, senior analyst of Bloomberg Intelligence.

That’s been a boon for Pony Ma, 48, who owns a 7% stake in the company and pocketed about $757 million from selling some 14.6 million of his Tencent shares this year, data complied by Bloomberg show.

Pony Ma, a native of China’s southern Guangdong province, studied computer science at Shenzhen University and was a software developer at a supplier of telecom services and products before co-founding Tencent with four others in the late 1990s. At the time, the company focused on instant-messaging services.

It’s been a long comeback for Pony Ma. He overtook real estate tycoon Wang Jianlin as China’s second-richest person in 2013 and topped Baidu Inc.’s Robin Li as the wealthiest in early 2014. Later that year, Alibaba went public in the U.S., catapulting Jack Ma’s fortune.

Bloomberg Intelligence’s Ling notes, however, that Tencent’s jump this year has lagged some internet peers, especially those in e-commerce, games and online entertainment. Just consider: Tencent shares have climbed 31% in 2020, compared with 121% for PDD.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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