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Ma Huateng

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Ma Huateng
Huateng in 2019
Born (1971-10-29) October 29, 1971 (age 52)
Shantou, China
Other namesPony Ma
Alma materShenzhen University (BS)
Occupation(s)Businessman, investor, philanthropist, software engineer
TitleCo-founder and chief executive officer of Tencent[1]
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese马化腾
Traditional Chinese馬化騰

Ma Huateng[2] (Chinese: 马化腾; pinyin: Mǎ Huàténg, born on October 29, 1971) is a Chinese business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. He is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Tencent, one of the most valuable companies in East Asia, one of the largest internet and technology companies, and one of the biggest investment, gaming, and entertainment conglomerates in the world.[3][4] The company in Shenzhen develops China's biggest mobile instant messaging service, WeChat, and its subsidiaries provide media, entertainment, payment systems, smartphones, internet-related services, value-added services and online advertising services, both in China and globally.

In 2007, 2014,[5] and 2018, Time magazine named him one of the world's most influential people,[6] while in 2015, Forbes credited him as one of the world's most powerful people. In 2017, Fortune ranked him as among the top businessmen of the year.[7][8] In 2018, he was named one of the "Most Powerful People In The World" by the CEOWORLD magazine.[9] Ma was a deputy to the Shenzhen Municipal People's Congress and a delegate in the 12th National People's Congress.[10]

Being one of "Fortune world's greatest leaders",[11] Ma is known for his low profile personality as compared to fellow Chinese businessman and Alibaba founder Jack Ma's outgoing personality. Ma has been compared to famed American investor Warren Buffett for their similar investment approaches, and often described as an "aggressive acquisitor."[12][13][14][15][16][17][18]

As of September 2023, he has a net worth of US$37.5 billion according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, ranking him as the 33rd wealthiest person in the world.[19] Ma ranks the fourth wealthiest person in China and the 34th wealthiest person in the world according to Forbes, with a net worth of US$34.5 billion as of September 2023.[20] In November 2017, his net worth briefly surpassed that of Larry Page and Sergey Brin (individually) ranking him the ninth richest man in the world, and the first citizen from China to enter Forbes' top 10 richest list,[21][22][23][24] though the net worth of Page and of Brin have each since eclipsed that of Ma.[25][26]

Early life and education[edit]

Ma was born in Chaoyang, Shantou, Guangdong.[27] When his father, Ma Chenshu (马陈术), got a job as a port manager in Shenzhen, the young Ma accompanied him.[28] He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Applied Engineering from Shenzhen University in 1993.[29][30]


Founding of Tencent and early career[edit]

Ma's first job was with China Motion Telecom Development, a supplier of telecommunications services and products, where he was in charge of developing software for pagers. He reportedly earned $176 per month.[31] He also worked for Shenzhen Runxun Communications Co. Ltd. (深圳润迅通讯发展you/ed/s限公司) in the research and development department for Internet calling services.[32]

Along with four other classmates, Ma Huateng went on to co-found Tencent in 1998. The company's first product came after Ma participated in a presentation for ICQ, the world's first Internet instant messaging service, founded in 1996 by an Israeli company.[32] Inspired by the idea, Ma and his team launched in February 1999 a similar software, with a Chinese interface and a slightly different name: OICQ (or Open ICQ).[27] The product quickly became popular and garnered more than a million registered users by the end of 1999, making it one of the largest such services in China.[33]

In a 2009 interview with China Daily, he stated: "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants", paraphrasing a quote attributed to Isaac Newton and referencing the similarities between ICQ and OICQ. "We knew our product had a future, but at that time we just couldn't afford it."[32] In order to solve the problem, Ma applied for bank loans and even discussed selling the company.[34]

Since Tencent's prized service OICQ was offered free of charge, the company looked to venture capitalists to finance its growing operational costs. In 2000, Ma turned to US investment firm IDC and Hong Kong's telecom carrier Pacific Century CyberWorks (PCCW), which bought 40 percent of Tencent's shares for US$2.2 million.[35] With the pager market shrinking, Ma improved the messaging platform by allowing OICQ users to send messages to mobile handsets. Afterwards, 80 percent of the company's revenue came from deals struck with telecom operators who agreed to share message fees.[34]

AOL arbitration and business expansion[edit]

After AOL (America Online) bought ICQ in 1998, the company filed an arbitration against Tencent with the National Arbitration Forum in the United States, claiming that OICQ's domain names OICQ.com and OICQ.net were in violation of ICQ's trademark. Tencent lost the case and had to relinquish the domain names.[32] In December 2000, Ma changed the name of the software to QQ ("Q" and "QQ" used to stand for the word "cute").[36]

After the AOL case, Ma decided to expand the business portfolio of Tencent. In 2003, Tencent released its own portal (QQ.com) and made forays into the online games market. By 2004, Tencent became the largest Chinese instant messaging service (holding 74 percent of the market),[34] prompting Ma to list the company on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.[32] After the company raised $200 million in June's IPO, Ma quickly became one of the richest people in China's telecom industry.

In 2004, Tencent launched an online gaming platform and started selling virtual seminal s to support the games published on that platform (weapons, gaming power), as well as emoticons and ringtones.[33]

At Ma's behest, Tencent launched in 2005 the C2C platform Paipai.com (拍拍网), a direct competitor to e-commerce giant Alibaba.[37]

Mimicking Microsoft, Ma created two competing teams of engineers in 2010 and charged them with creating a new product. After two months, one team presented an app for text messaging and group chat – WeChat – which launched in January 2011. As of 2015, WeChat (微信, Weixin), is the largest instant messaging platform in the world, used by 48 percent of Internet users in the Asia-Pacific region.[33][38]

Other diverse services provided by Tencent include web portals, e-commerce, and multiplayer online games.[8] Online games such as Legend of Yulong and Legend of Xuanyuan boosted revenue by more than half, up to US$5.1 billion, with a US$1.5 billion profit margin.[38]

In December 2015, Ma announced that Tencent would build an "internet hospital" set up in Wuzhen that will provide long-distance diagnoses and medicine delivery.[39]


In 2016, Ma transferred US$2.3 billion worth of his personal Tencent shares to his charitable foundation, the Ma Huateng Global Foundation (马化腾环球基金会).[40] However, Forbes has not decreased his net worth, as the shares are still listed under his name.[41]


According to the official Tencent website, Ma is a deputy to the 5th Shenzhen Municipal People's Congress and served in the 12th National People's Congress.[10]

Speaking of censorship at a technology conference in Singapore, Ma was quoted as saying: "In terms of information security management, online companies from any country must abide by a defined set of criteria, and act responsibly. Otherwise it might lead to hearsay, libel and argument among citizens—not to mention between countries. That's why the need for online management is increasingly urgent."[42]

Personal life[edit]

Ma uses the nickname Pony, derived from the English translation of his family name Ma (), which means "horse."[34] Ma Huateng seldom appears in the media and is known for his secretive lifestyle.[43]

Ma Huateng's wealth comes from the 9.7 percent stake in Tencent Holdings. He reportedly owns property in Hong Kong and art pieces worth US$150 million.[44] He owns a redeveloped palatial residence of 1,820 m2 (19,600 sq ft) in Hong Kong.[44]

On April 28, 2018, Ma Huateng's book "China on Fingertips" was officially launched, telling the story of the entire social transformation process of China as a mobile Internet power.


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  25. ^ "Larry Page". Forbes. Retrieved March 11, 2021.
  26. ^ "Sergey Brin". Forbes. Retrieved March 11, 2021.
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  38. ^ a b M, Swathi R. (October 9, 2015). "Internet Users In Malaysia Are More Active On WhatsApp And Facebook Than Those In US, UK And China [REPORT]". Dazeinfo. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
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  40. ^ Flannery, Russell (October 8, 2017). "Tencent Rally Adds Billions to Chairman's Philanthropy Pile, Highlights China Influence". Forbes. Retrieved September 15, 2020. Ma in July 2016 set aside 100 million shares from his personal Tencent holdings for the Ma Huateng Global Foundation, Tencent has said. At that time, the 100 million shares were worth $2.3 billion – a very large commitment.
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