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Tencent’s Ma Becomes China’s Second-Richest Man on WeChat Mania

Ma Huateng, chairman and chief executive officer of Tencent Holdings Ltd, whose English name is Pony, co-founded Tencent with a Shenzhen University classmate, Zhang Zhidong, in November 1998. Its first product was instant-messaging software similar to AOL’s ICQ chat service. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg
Ma Huateng, chairman and chief executive officer of Tencent Holdings Ltd, whose English name is Pony, co-founded Tencent with a Shenzhen University classmate, Zhang Zhidong, in November 1998. Its first product was instant-messaging software similar to AOL’s ICQ chat service. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Ma Huateng, chairman of Asia’s largest Internet company Tencent Holdings Ltd., overtook property tycoon Wang Jianlin to become China’s second-richest man, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Ma has a net worth of $12.1 billion, surpassing Wang by $100 million, according to the daily index. Tencent shares have soared 90 percent this year in Hong Kong trading, compared with a 2.5 percent increase in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Ma, 42, is benefiting from Tencent’s development of mobile Internet games and services, especially WeChat, an instant messaging and social networking app known as Weixin in China. More than 84 percent of China’s Internet users regularly access instant messaging, making it the most popular online application, surpassing search engines, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“We view Tencent has the makings of a great long stock and expect significant growth from its mobile Internet business,” said You Na, a Hong Kong-based analyst at ICBC International. The brokerage initiated coverage of Tencent on Nov. 18 with a buy rating.

Tencent’s QQ instant-messaging service had 818 million monthly active users at the end of June, and WeChat had 236 million, almost twice the population of Japan. Tencent is counting on WeChat, which targets more upscale users than QQ, for its global expansion.

“We believe Tencent is well-positioned among the top mobile Internet entries via Weixin, beckoning a global Internet trend,” You said.

Billionaire Rivals

Tencent hired soccer superstar Lionel Messi to promote WeChat as it pursues new revenue streams, including charging for emoticons, to compete with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and search engine Baidu Inc. for China’s 591 million mobile Internet users. That’s greater than the population of any other country except India.

Baidu and Alibaba also are led by billionaires. Baidu Chairman Robin Li became the nation’s wealthiest individual earlier this month with a fortune of $12.4 billion. Alibaba’s Jack Ma, who founded the world’s largest Internet marketplace, is worth $3.7 billion.

The majority of Ma Huateng’s wealth is derived from his more than 10 percent stake in Tencent. He controls the Shenzhen-based company through Advanced Data Services, a British Virgin Islands investment entity. Shares of Tencent have leaped 6,000 percent since its initial public offering.

$176 a Month

Ma Huateng was born in Shantou, a city in the southern province of Guangdong, in 1971. His father, Ma Chenshu, moved the family to Hainan, an island off the south coast, and later to Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, where he got a job as a port manager.

In 1993, Ma graduated from Shenzhen University, where he studied computer science. His first job was developing software for pagers at China Motion Telecom Development, a supplier of telecommunications services and products in Shenzhen. He earned $176 per month.

Ma, whose English name is Pony, co-founded Tencent with a Shenzhen University classmate, Zhang Zhidong, in November 1998. Its first product was instant-messaging software similar to AOL’s ICQ chat service.

Zhang, who is the company’s chief technology officer, has a net worth of $6.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The index is a daily ranking of the world’s richest people. Each Bloomberg Billionaire profile contains a detailed analysis of how that person’s fortune is tallied.

The index measures the world’s wealthy based on changes in markets, the economy and Bloomberg reporting. Each net worth figure is updated every business day at 5:30 p.m. in New York.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Michael Wei in Shanghai at mwei13@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Matthew G. Miller at mmiller144@bloomberg.net

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