Date
4 December 2016
A man stands next to QQ mascots outside Tencent's headquarters in Shenzhen. Tencent has given away 300 shares to each staff on the occasion of its 18th anniversary. Photo: Bloomberg
A man stands next to QQ mascots outside Tencent's headquarters in Shenzhen. Tencent has given away 300 shares to each staff on the occasion of its 18th anniversary. Photo: Bloomberg

Early Thanksgiving for Tencent

Singles’ Day has become the Chinese equivalent of US Thanksgiving Day and not just for Alibaba Group but also for rival Tencent Holdings.

Before Alibaba declared a 121 billion yuan (US$17.65 billion) record sales on Saturday, Tencent had given away 300 shares to each of its 30,641 staff on the occasion of its 18th anniversary.

Good news for mainland bachelors, who started their own celebration in Nanjing University on this special day in 1993.

And as fate would have it, Nov. 11 was a big day for Chinese e-commerce.

Tencent was founded on the same day in 1997 and exactly 15 years later, Alibaba started its biggest online shopping day in 2012.

Based on Friday’s market close of HK$200 (US$25.78), each Tencent staff got a HK$60,000 windfall — not bad for extra incentive.

On Friday, Tencent staff received a WeChat message on the share giveaway, along with heartfelt thanks from chairman and chief executive Pony Ma Huateng for their service in the past 18 years.

The shares are restricted and staff can sell only one-third of their holding at the end of each year.

This year is the ninth consecutive year Ma has offered free shares to his staff.

In May, Tencent issued 56.12 million new shares, the largest ever giveaway, to 10,383 staff, part of a 2013 Stock Scheme to attract and retain talent.

With Tencent now Hong Kong’s largest company by market capitalization, the new shares are worth HK$11.22 billion.

In other words, many Tencent staff already got an average of HK$1.1 million in stock just a few months ago.

Tencent president Martin Lau, for example, got a share-based compensation of HK$53 million, according to Tencent’s annual report.

He already owns 43.71 million shares worth HK$8.7 billion.

That easily made him the best-paid employee in Hong Kong, dwarfing CK Hutchison group managing director Canning Fok who has regularly pocketed more than HK$200 million in cash a year.

Staff compensation in mainland technology firms can be very different from those in traditional industries.

For example, Huawei Technology, also based in Shenzhen, handed out paychecks worth nearly HK$1 million each last year, with 1,000 employees getting more than HK$5 million apiece.

Little wonder Shenzhen home prices have kept surging thanks to Tencent, Huawei and other emerging technology giants.

HSBC, whose senior executives are said to be on a pay freeze with an annual increment of just 3 percent in overall payroll in the coming year, must be jealous.

Most of us are probably in the wrong industry but things might change after last week.

US President-elect Donald Trump is not a tech-friendly guy and traditional economy stocks – HSBC included – might see a turnaround in fate soon.

Well, always count your blessings during Thanksgiving and be happy.

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BK/AC/RA

EJ Insight writer

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