Jack Ma Dethroned as China's Richest by Tencent's Pony Ma

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the digitisation of the workplace and changed consumers’ habits.

Jack Ma Dethroned as China's Richest by Tencent's Pony Ma

Jack Ma was the wealthiest Chinese before the Tencent boss

  • Tencent has also surpassed Alibaba as Asia’s most-valuable company
  • Tencent has come a long way since hitting a low in 2018
  • In 2018, China put a hold on licensing new games

Tencent Holding's $40 billion (roughly Rs. 3.02 lakh crores) surge this week and the recent ascent of Pinduoduo have reshuffled the ranking of China's richest people.

The country's largest game developer has surpassed Alibaba as Asia's most-valuable company, with its shares rising above HKD 500 (roughly Rs. 4,870) in intraday trading Wednesday for the first time. 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, worth $50 billion (roughly Rs. 3.77 lakh crores), has surpassed Jack Ma's $48 billion (roughly Rs. 3.62 lakh crores) fortune, becoming China's richest person. And Colin Huang of PDD, whose net worth stands at $43 billion (roughly Rs. 3.25 lakh crores), 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 pandemic has accelerated 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 occupy four of the top five spots: Ding Lei of Tencent peer NetEase 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 last month the tech giant reported a 26 percent jump in first-quarter revenue.

“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, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst.

That has been a boon for Pony Ma, 48, who owns a 7 percent stake in the company and pocketed about $757 million (roughly Rs. 5,720 crores) from selling some 14.6 million of his Tencent shares this year, data complied by Bloomberg show.

The 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 has 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's Robin Li as the wealthiest in early 2014. Later that year, Alibaba went public in the US, catapulting Jack Ma's fortune.

Bloomberg Intelligence's Ling notes, however, that Tencent's jump this year has lagged behind some internet peers, especially those in e-commerce, games and online entertainment. Just consider: Tencent shares have climbed 31 percent in 2020, while PDD's American depositary receipts have more than doubled. Alibaba, meanwhile, has advanced just 6.9 percent.

© 2020 Bloomberg LP

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