Remember that scene on the first working day after the Lunar New Year holiday last year, when thousands of employees of Tencent Holdings (00700.HK) formed a kilometric, serpentine line at their corporate headquarters in Shenzhen to personally receive lai see from their boss?
Well, that scene won’t be repeated this year. The internet giant’s over 56,000 staff will still be getting their red packets, but they won’t receive the blessings directly from their chairman Pony Ma Huateng.
That’s because China’s No. 1 tycoon decided to cancel the annual staff gathering on February 1st, the eighth day of Lunar New Year which falls on a Saturday, amid growing health concerns over the new coronavirus that emerged from Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province, and is fast spreading across the country and elsewhere.
In its public WeChat account, Tencent announced that the annual event has been cancelled. No reason was given, but employees were reminded to wear masks and stay away from areas with heavy human traffic as well as seafood and poultry markets and farms.
Many Tencent workers will probably regret not being able to see their rock-star chairman in person this time around.
The event itself was a highly anticipated one with thousands forming a long queue that extended from the ground to the 48th floor of the corporate headquarters where Ma holds office.
They would stay from 5 a.m. – some even overnight – and wait until the office opened at 8 a.m.
Following the tradition, Ma will put different amounts in the red packets, from a few hundreds to a few thousands, so it’s all a matter of luck how much one gets.
This year, hopes are high that staff will get bigger lai see. That’s because Ma last week cashed out Tencent shares worth around HK$2 billion at around HK$400 each, a 21-month high. His deputy, president Martin Lau Chi-ping, also sold HK$200 million worth of shares just before his boss did.
Of course, they won’t be stuffing all that money into red packets, although staff probably wish they would.
Now, after Tencent has cancelled its Lunar New Year gathering, would other corporates in the mainland and Hong Kong follow suit amid mounting concerns over the Wuhan virus?
Probably not. It’s a most anticipated event when bosses and employees gather and celebrate together to welcome a new year, which they hope will be a bountiful one.
It’s important for everyone to be cautious and vigilant, but that won’t stop people from celebrating and continuing a time-honored tradition.
And so we wish everyone “Kin Hong” and “Ping An“. Stay healthy, stay safe and enjoy a truly happy and prosperous new year.
Kung Hei Fat Choy!
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