Tencent Holdings Ltd doled out more than US$200mil (RM844.10mil) apiece to two unidentified executives in 2021, even as it cut founder Pony Ma’s compensation for a year in which Beijing’s crackdown on the private sector walloped the Internet giant’s stock.
The company said in its annual report that its two highest-paid individuals were not among the directors or most senior executives. One made about HK$1.599bil (RM861.09mil), while another person made about HK$1.589bil (RM855.70mil) – the equivalent of US$204mil and US$203mil respectively. That would put the pair among the 20 most highly paid executives in the US, a roster led by Tesla Inc founder Elon Musk and Apple Inc chief executive officer Tim Cook.
The company didn’t name the two executives. Tencent’s most prominent talent includes Allen Zhang, hailed by the industry as the founder of the ubiquitous WeChat messaging service, and gaming business chief Mark Ren.
Ma, the company’s chief executive officer, took home a total of 44.1mil yuan (RM29.25mil) last year. The billionaire founder still holds more than 7% of the company, giving him a net worth of about US$39bil (RM164.59bil), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His closest lieutenant, President Martin Lau, earned 24% less or 323mil yuan (RM214.25mil), including a 32% decline in his bonus to 23mil yuan (RM15.25mil), according to the company’s annual report.
Tencent is among the technology giants that came under fire from China’s regulators last year, as the government led a sweeping crackdown on what it deemed monopolistic practices and services contrary to Communist Party priorities. Beijing restricted the amount of time children could play online games and imposed new restrictions on online education, both critical to Tencent’s operations.
Its shares dropped 19% during 2021, while rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd tumbled 49%. Tencent’s stock has dropped another 16% through Thursday.
For fiscal year ended in March 2021, Alibaba paid about US$46mil (RM194.14mil) salaries and other cash benefits to its directors and executive officers, a 36% drop from a year earlier. But while growth is slowing for the industry, the most sought-after engineers and tech executives continue to command outsized salaries because of endemic talent shortages.
Zhang, the progenitor of the messaging service that sits at the heart of Tencent’s gaming and social media businesses, commands a cult-like following in China thanks to WeChat’s explosive popularity. His colleague Ren is widely credited with helping establish the world’s biggest game publishing empire, encompassing blockbuster names from League Of Legends to Clash Of Clans and with investments in studios like Supercell, Epic and Riot Games. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tencent also increased pay for its staff in general in 2021. Employee benefits expenses – which include wages, bonuses, share awards and medical costs – leapt 37% to 95.5bil yuan (RM63.34bil). – Bloomberg