The country’s largest game developer has surpassed Alibaba Group Holding as Asia’s most valuable company, with its shares rising above HK$500 (S$89.77) in intraday trading on Wednesday (June 24) for the first time.

Tencent Holdings’ US$40 billion (S$55.7 billion) surge this week and the recent ascent of Pinduoduo Inc have reshuffled the ranking of China’s richest people. Shares of 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 US$50 billion, has surpassed Jack Ma’s US$48 billion fortune, becoming China’s richest person. And Colin Huang of PDD, whose net worth stands at US$43 billion, 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 the shares of many Internet companies. Now tech tycoons are dominating the ranks of Alibaba Group China’s richest people. They occupy four of the top five spots: Ding Lei of Tencent peer NetEase Inc follows China Evergrande’s Hui.

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 per cent 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 per cent stake in the company and pocketed about US$757 million 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 Inc’s Robin Li as the wealthiest in early 2014. Later that year, Alibaba went public in the US, catapulting Jack Ma’s fortune.Related Story

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 per cent in 2020, while PDD’s American depositary receipts have more than doubled. Alibaba, meanwhile, has advanced just 6.9 per cent.

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