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Tencent and SenseTime execs join Malaysia's wealth fund

Mahathir-led group picks China tech leaders to bolster tech investment

The Kuala Lumpur skyline: Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has been courting investment from Chinese technology groups.   © Reuters

SHANGHAI -- Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional has appointed two executives from Chinese technology companies to its board for the first time, highlighting the priority investment fields under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's leadership.

Tencent Holdings senior executive Lau Seng Yee and Tang Xiao'ou, founder of SenseTime, a startup known for facial recognition technology using artificial intelligence, joined the strategic investment fund effective June 26, Khazanah said on Monday.

Mahathir chairs Khazanah, a wholly owned state fund with 136 billion ringgit ($33 billion) in realizable asset value. Khazanah invests in local equity, controlling companies in strategic fields such as finance, health care, telecommunications and aviation. In recent years, the fund also has invested in technology companies including Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba Group Holding.

Tang, a Chinese national, became the first foreigner appointed to the fund, according to SenseTime. The AI scientist leads the Multimedia Lab at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, a deep learning institute, while presiding over SenseTime.

SenseTime, founded in 2014, has grown in prominence due to its cutting-edge AI technology, used in applications including telecom, automotive and health care. The company is valued at $4.5 billion after fundraising rounds that attracted investors such as Alibaba.

SenseTime founder Tang Xiao'ou, left, meets with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad after a Khazanah Nasional board meeting. (Photo courtesy of SenseTime)

The startup is partnering with Malaysian company G3 Global to develop the use of AI in the country.

Lau, a Malaysian, heads Tencent's group marketing and global branding. He has been with the Hong Kong-listed internet giant, known for its mobile application WeChat, since 2006.

Their appointment also reflects Malaysia's push to promote the use of innovation and advanced technology in the manufacturing and services sectors, diversifying from the country's reliance on commodities.

Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma was appointed previously as an adviser to Malaysia's government, which was counting on his e-commerce expertise to power the internet-related economy.

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