Chinese shoppers look at the iPhones on display at the Apple Store in Shanghai. Photo: AFP
Apple stores sprouted up across China's major cities as iPhones sales in the world's second-largest economy. Photo: AFP

Normally, most people would be happy to get a new iPhone in a New Year’s Eve lucky draw. However, not in China. The WeChat division of Tencent Holdings has become the subject of mirth after all the staff heard they would receive an iPhone XS Max as their New Year’s gift.

Why not a Chinese-made Huawei Mate 20, many people asked?

People commented online, noting that an iPhone XS Max 512 GB cost 12,799 yuan (US$1,896), according to a mainland discussion forum. In addition, the 700 staff were given between 1,888 yuan and 5,888 yuan in a fat red packet, or lai sees in Cantonese, ahead of the Year of the Pig.

And many hope there is more – a year-end bonus. A post on WeChat suggested Tencent would allocate a 2 billion yuan bonus to staff – and one particular department would hand out a bonus of 2.8 million yuan each to staff.

Hopes were high after an engineer said on WeChat that the present was not as important as the bonus, which he added would be a big surprise to staff. However, a Tencent spokesman denied the figures were true and urged his colleagues to stop dreaming.

He did, however, say the bonus would be higher than last year, but the exact amount was not yet clear. WeChat, China’s answer to Facebook’s WhatsApp, is the most popular app in China with more than one billion users.

WhatsApp was an all-time startup dream in 2014 when it sold to Facebook for US$19 billion in stock and cash, or the equivalent of US$380 million for each of its 50 employees.

Shares in Tencent, the largest company in Hong Kong by market capitalization, fell 22% last year. But that does not mean it cannot keep its staff happy with a big bonus. And a nice, new American phone.

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