Ma Huateng, chairman of Tencent Holdings Ltd., recently announced his plans to give away 100 million shares of his company to a new charity fund.
The shares are estimated to be worth over $2 billion and will constitute what is believed to be the second biggest philanthropic donation in the history of China.
Ma, 44, became China’s richest man in 2014 after shares of his Chinese internet messaging company skyrocketed. The computer science student co-founded Tencent with a fellow Shenzhen University classmate in 1998 to produce their first instant-messaging software. Tencent has grown to become China’s largest social network and online entertainment firm known for its services such as mobile messaging WeChat and the web portal QQ.com.
According to Reuters, Ma, who currently has a net worth of nearly $18.8 billion, believes there is a dire need for the wealthy to give back. He said in a statement on Monday:
“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 organized way to give back to society.”
Ma intends to support development in the medical, educational and environmental sectors in China and causes related to those fields. According to the company, the new charity fund will be spearheaded by a team of professionals. Ma’s own Tencent Foundation, established in 2007, was similarly set up by the chairman.
Though China has surpassed the United States for having the most billionaires in the world, it appears that China lags behind in philanthropic efforts. Wei Peiran, a research fellow at Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, believes that Ma’s donation is a good step forward in encouraging others to follow suit. Wei said:
“There is no doubt that it’s going to be a boom for China in terms of philanthropy. These people have the business acumen and they know how to deal with the government … They have proved themselves in terms of getting things done.”
Ma, whose name translates to “Pony” in English, was named in Time magazine’s 2007 and 2014 edition as one of the world’s most influential people. Forbes listed Ma as the 39th richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $19.4 million.