Tencent announced on Thursday that it will hand out JD.com shares worth HKD 127.69 billion (USD 16.37 billion) to its shareholders as interim dividends. This represents most of Tencent’s stake in JD.com. After the distribution, Tencent’s stake in JD.com will go from 17% to 2.3%, and Tencent will no longer be the e-commerce conglomerate’s largest shareholder.
Tencent will distribute 86.4% of its JD.com Class A ordinary shares, which represents roughly 14.7% of JD.com’s total issued shares. Every 21 Tencent shares held by eligible shareholders guarantees receipt of one JD.com share, according to a filing on Thursday with Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
At the same time, Tencent president Martin Lau, who was Tencent’s representative on JD.com’s board, will resign as a board director.
This is the first time for Tencent to issue an interim dividend. It is also the largest shareholder dividend ever paid by a Chinese technology company.
Tencent said the transfer of most of its stake in JD.com is a move in line with the company’s investment strategy. Specifically, Tencent invests in companies during their development stage, and seeks exits when a portfolio company is able to finance its own growth.
“The board of Tencent believes that JD.com has now reached such a status, and considers that it is an appropriate time to transfer the majority of the interest held by the group in JD.com directly to shareholders,” Tencent said in a statement.
After the transfer, JD.com’s founder Richard Liu Qiangdong will become his company’s largest shareholder with a 13.9% stake. Tencent and JD.com will maintain their existing strategic partnership agreement, which has been in place for eight years. Tencent said it has no plans to further reduce its holdings in JD.com in the future.
Tencent’s investment in JD.com began in March 2014, when it acquired a 15% stake in JD.com for USD 214 million, and merged its QQ Online Shopping and e-commerce divisions into JD.com.
With access to more than 1 billion users in Tencent’s social media ecosystem, JD.com likely pulled sizable amounts of traffic to its sites, making it one of the world’s most significant e-commerce players.