Tencent’s Ma Huateng overtook Jack Ma of Alibaba to become the richest person in China again as shares of his internet gaming giant rose 14% so far this year—to the highest in two years—thanks to strong demand for its mobile games during coronavirus lockdowns.
As of Thursday, Ma Huateng has a net worth of $48.2 billion, up from $38.1 billion since Forbes calculated the fortunes of the World’s Billionaires on March 18. Meanwhile, Jack Ma has a fortune of $41.2 billion, up from $38.8 billion in the same period. Ma Huateng was previously named the richest person in China in early March, with a net worth of $44.5 billion.
Shares of Tencent received a 3.5% boost when markets opened on Thursday, the day after it reported its strong first-quarter performance. Like other gaming and internet companies around the world, Tencent saw demand for its services soar between January and March, when China was in a lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. But as the country gradually ease social-distancing measures, Tencent faces uncertainties down the road and could give up its recent gains.
Defying China’s suppressed consumption and broader economic slump, Tencent beat market expectations by posting a 31% jump in revenue from its gaming business, its biggest source of income, in the first quarter.
“Our platforms and products have never been more needed and relevant as users stay at home,” Tencent’s Ma, who founded the company and serves as its chairman and chief executive officer, said during an analyst call on Wednesday.
Strong performance by mobile games Peacekeeper Elite and Honor of Kings led the rise in gaming revenue. Tencent’s total revenues rose 26% to 108.1 billion yuan (about $15 billion) in the first quarter.
But analysts see the boon as temporary. With schools and offices reopening amid a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, people will spend less time on games.