Li Ka-shing is top philanthropist - but who is absent from list?

September 09, 2015 14:13
(From left) Li Ka-shing, Jack Ma and Priscilla Chan are the top three philanthropists among Chinese tycoons. Photos: HKEJ, Bloomberg, internet

While tycoon Li Ka-shing (李嘉誠) may have been challenged by various mainlanders as the richest Chinese in the world, when it comes to philanthropy, he has always been No. 1.

The chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. (00001.HK) and Cheung Kong Property Holdings Ltd. (01113.HK) has a fortune of US$32.8 billion, the Hurun Report said in its Global Chinese Rich List, released last month, overtaken this year by Dalian Wanda Group chairman Wang Jianlin (王健林), with US$42.6 billion.

However, Li topped the Hurun Report's global list of Chinese philanthropists, released Tuesday, with 15 billion yuan (US$2.35 billion) in lifetime donations, ahead of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. chairman Jack Ma Yun (馬雲, who donated 10 billion yuan worth of his shares in Alibaba) and way ahead of Wang (who has given more than 3 billion yuan to charity in the past decade).

A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows Li has donated about 7 percent of his net worth, compared with Wang’s 1.1 per cent.

One reason might be that Wang’s net worth jumped substantially last year after he spun off his cinema chain, and his donations just failed to catch up with the sudden surge in his wealth.

But after a big market correction this summer in which A shares plunged as much as 40 per cent and Alibaba fell below its IPO price, these mainland tycoons may be holding their wallets a bit tighter than before.

Also joining the 10 billion donation club is 30-year-old Priscilla Chan, wife of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The couple have together pledged and donated more than 10 billion yuan to charitable causes.

Four tycoons who were in the top 10 on the Global Chinese Rich List don't show up on the philanthropy list.

They include Tencent Holdings Ltd. (00700.HK) chairman Pony Ma Huateng (馬化騰), Baidu Inc. chief executive Robin Li Yanhong (李彦宏), Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co. Ltd. founder Zong Qinghou (宗慶后) and Hanergy Holding Group Ltd. founder Li Hejun (李河君).

Hanergy's listed subsidiary, Hanergy Thin Film Power Group Ltd. (00566.HK) was suspended from trading pending a major restructuring that will reduce intragroup sales by 90 percent, so Li Hejun's net worth may take a substantial hit.

But the other three tycoons could arguably be doing more for charity.

They should perhaps take a leaf out of Fuyao Glass Industry Group founder Cao Dewang (曹德旺)'s book.

A Buddhist, Cao set up a charity trust in 2009 to which he donated 300 million shares, or nearly 60 per cent of his holdings in Fuyao.

Though Cao is ranked 1,391th on the Hurun rich list, with a net worth of 8.5 billion yuan, his donation is now worth 3.5 billion yuan.

His charitable giving started in 1983 with a 2,000 yuan donation to his old primary school.

That is why Hurun calls Cao the leading philanthropist in China.

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EJ Insight writer