Times Publications

Chinese Billionaire Behind Tencent Briefly Richer Than The Google Founders

He’s one of China’s richest men -- the richest, according to some rankings -- with a net worth of roughly $42 billion.

Posted by Times Exclusive on Thursday, 23rd November 2017

From 21st November, it’s a Ma Huateng’s time in the top ten richest was brief. He ended the Hong Kong trading day Tuesday up $1.1 billion, with a net worth of $47.8 billion, which puts him at No. 13 richest in the world, according to Forbes Real Time rankings.

It’s the first time that a Chinese billionaire has cracked Forbes list of the world’s top ten richest. Ma is now richer than Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as the members of the Walton family (heirs to retailer Walmart).

His business interests range from social media to artificial intelligence and his company has invested in Snapchat and Tesla. It also owns minority stakes in electric car maker Tesla Motors and videogame company Activision Blizzard. The latest news: The tech giant he founded is more valuable than Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook (FB, Tech30).

It’s a Ma Huateng, also known as Pony Ma, the founder of Tencent-- a largest social media company in the world. He owns just under 9% of Tencent Holdings. The company’s popular WeChat app has more than 960 million users. WeChat is about far more than just messaging, however. It serves as the lynchpin of a product ecosystem that includes search, social networks and payment platforms.

Tencent has also built a massive mobile gaming business, generating sales of over $10 billion last year thanks to hugely popular titles like "Clash of Clans" and "Honor of Kings."

Ma Began to work in the pager business after graduating from southern China’s Shenzhen University in 1993 with a degree in computer science.

From pagers to messaging platforms but it wasn’t until five years after leaving college that the low-profile businessman founded Tencent (TCEHY), and started to working on the communications platforms that would turn the company into a global tech titan.

Tencent developed a reputation as a copycat in its early days, and was accused of taking western products and adapting them for the Chinese market. Its PC messaging platform, for example, closely resembled a similar product from AOL.

Even the internet firm would later strike gold with WeChat, a mobile messaging service that is now used by almost 1 billion people. According to Tencent’s last week’s the company earnings called as Youtube equivalent, Tencent Video, has become the video streaming service with the largest paying subscriber base in China, at 43 million subscriptions.

Ma chairs Tencent Holdings as an Executive Director, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer since 1998. Tencent is the China internet giant that ranks among the country’s largest businesses by market captilization.

Before he founded Tencent in 1998, Ma was in charge of research and development for Internet paging system development at China Motion Telecom Development Limited, a telecommunications services and products provider in China. He has over 20 years of experience in telecommunication and Internet industries. Ma. 46, according to a regulatory filing made in October. Both the company’s share price and his personal wealth have more than doubled over the past year.

Last year, Ma pledged to donate more than $2 billion to various causes in China including healthcare and education. He has also served as a deputy to the National People’s Congress, a marquee event for the country’s ruling Communist Party.

Pony Ma’s public persona contrasts sharply with that of his chief Chinese rival, Alibaba (BABA, Tech30) founder Jack Ma.

The two men, who are not related, have spent the last few years trading places at the top of China’s wealth rankings. Jack Ma is chatty by comparison, granting frequent interviews in English.

However, Tencent has more to boast about recently: When it surpassed Facebook (FB, Tech30) on Tuesday 21st , Tencent also beat Alibaba (BABA, Tech30) in becoming the first Chinese company to hit a market value of $500 billion.

Their genuine prowess aside, the analyst and observer already pointed out that the rise of China’s tech giants has been greatly aided by Beijing’s ban on the US titans - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google. There is nothing to rival WeChat and while Amazon was let in, it was quickly quashed by Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao e-commerce sites.

Editor: Jian Ping Sun



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