China’s best-known billionaire namesakes, Jack Ma and Pony Ma, have entered the ranking of the world’s 20 wealthiest people compiled by Forbes, also becoming the first Chinese people to make the iconic list.
Ma Huateng, the founder and CEO of internet company Tencent, who is known as Pony Ma, was ranked 17th this year with a net worth of $45.3 billion, while Alibaba founder Jack Ma, worth $39 billion, grabbed the 20th spot.
Tencent operates the WeChat messenger application that has become super-popular in China over recent years. Launched in January 2011, WeChat has turned into the largest messenger by monthly users, with over 938 million active users as of the middle of last year. The app allows users not only to send messages and make calls, but to pay bills, order goods and services, transfer money, as well as pay in shops if they have the WeChat payment option.
The popularity of Tencent’s products helped nearly double its share price last year, launching Pony Ma directly into the top 20 richest people across the planet. The market value of the Hong Kong-listed company has reached nearly $535 billion, outstripping Facebook’s market capitalization.
Alipay, launched by Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group in 2004, is WeChat Pay’s major rival in China. In a bid to beat the competition, Alipay unveiled a facial recognition payment service in 2017 and added Ripple blockchain protocol to its backend to speed up payment processes. Alibaba, founded in 1999 by former English teacher Jack Ma, provides e-commerce, internet, AI and technology. Earlier this year, Alibaba’s market capitalization surged to $527 billion, making the Hangzhou-based firm one of the most valuable companies in the world.
At the same time, the two Chinese tycoons are ranked as the first and the third wealthiest people in Asia.