Capital Calls: Tencent's loud ESG pitch may fall on deaf ears

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Tencent Chairman and CEO Pony Ma poses at the company's headquarters in Nanshan Hi-Tech Industrial Park in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen during an interview with Reuters June 9, 2011. Picture taken June 9, 2011. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS SCI TECH)

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LOYALTY FEES. Tencent’s (0700.HK) low-profile boss Pony Ma is having to spend more time in the spotlight. On Monday he pledged an initial 50 billion yuan ($7.7 billion) read more of the social-media giant’s money, roughly 40% of its 2020 adjusted earnings, for “socially valuable” projects ranging from scientific projects to rural development to carbon neutrality.

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The sudden largesse – 19 times Tencent’s donations last year – includes investments in startups, which could keep investors happy. It also happens to align with President Xi Jinping’s blueprint for national development. And it comes a week after the country sought to rein in read more the sweeping dominance of Alibaba (9988.HK) and 33 other so-called platform companies, including $775 billion Tencent.

Xi may just dismiss Pony Ma’s new generosity as window-dressing. Philanthropy has not been an effective shield in the past: Alibaba’s gift of medical equipment last year didn’t prevent founder Jack Ma read more from becoming a political target after he publicly criticized regulators. At least Pony Ma cannot be accused of not trying. [By Yawen Chen]

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