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China's Bill Gates of giving

GLASS tycoon Cao Dewang is bidding to become China's Bill Gates - in the philanthropic sense.

Cao, chairman of Fuyao Glass Industry Group Co Ltd, revealed recently that he wants to donate 676 million company shares his family holds to set up a charity foundation, the Chengdu Business Daily reported yesterday. Those shares were worth 4.05 billion yuan (US$592 million) last night.

If the foundation is approved by state authorities, it would be the first to be based entirely on stocks, the Fujian Charity Federation said.

The fund would be used to provide school grants, disaster relief, subsidies for the poor and financial support to religious groups around the country, said the report, which did not say how the shares would be turned into cash.

Rupert Hoogewerf, the publisher of the Hurun Report, a monthly magazine best known for its annual "China Rich List," told the newspaper Cao is already among the nation's biggest benefactors. If the fund is cleared for operation, the 59-year-old Fujian Province native would become China's most generous giver, Hoogewerf said.

Cao dropped out of school when he was 14 and went on to earn 700,000 yuan in 1986, three years after he began operating a glass workshop in Fujian's Fuqing City. The shop was later developed into the Fuyao Group, which went public in Shanghai in 1993.

The Hurun report ranked Cao the 102nd richest Chinese mainland person last year, holding total assets of 6.5 billion yuan.

Cao has already donated more than 200 million yuan in cash to charity, with about 100 million yuan spent on building schools in underdeveloped areas.

He also contributed more than 20 million yuan after the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan Province and had given 15.27 million yuan to the Fujian Charity Federation as of November 30.

He was also one of 16 people who have been on the Hurun Chinese Philanthropists List for five consecutive years. He ranked 14th last year after donating 146 million yuan.

Earlier media reports have compared the mainland's tycoons unfavorably with Western wealthy people such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who is well known for his philanthropy.

It's not that Chinese tycoons can't afford it. On Hurun's 2007 Hurun rich list, the 66 Chinese with assets exceeding US$1 billion surpassed the Germans to take second place worldwide.


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