Most employees at Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings have received a year-end bonus of 100 shares of stock worth 73,650 Hong Kong dollars ($9,500) for, as the company put it, "having made special contribution during the Covid-19 pandemic year."

Tencent didn't disclose figures but said "most staff" have received the reward. Employees posted on social media Maimai saying that those who joined the company before Dec. 15, 2020 received the bonus.

Tencent saw its shares increase as much as 80% throughout last year and hit a record high of HK$767.5 on Jan. 25, which pushed the company's market capitalization to HK$7.35 trillion.

Some employees said that the reward was "an all-of-sudden surprise," as they had not been informed beforehand. 

As of last September, Tencent employed a total of 77,592 employees. Assuming 80% of its staff was awarded the bonus, the total cost of the year-end bonus is projected to be nearly HK$4.59 billion.

"In the face of various challenges last year, the company staff committed themselves to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic with science and technology, supported various sectors to accelerate digital transformation and promoted economic recovery," said Tencent in a statement.

More than 70% of elite workforce in China receive year-end bonus amounting to no more than two months of salary, while only 3.6% workforce is given a high bonus that equals six months of salary or more, according to job recruitment service provider

In contrast, Tencent has a record of giving high-value bonuses to its employees. In July, 2017, the company issued a total of 17.87 million new shares to reward 10,800 outperforming employees, accounting for 34% workforce at the time. In 2016, it offered each employee 300 shares worth 53,000 Chinese yuan ($8,209) on the 18th anniversary of its establishment.

Aside from earnestly wishing for a similar reward, netizens pointed out this bonus outweighs many Chinese annual salaries and criticized that the internet company benefited from Big Data with users' input.

During the third quarter of 2020, Tencent exceeded market expectations by achieving a net profit of 38.542 billion yuan, up 89% year-on-year, its earnings report shows.

"This quarter marked the second anniversary of our strategic organization upgrade, which was intended to enhance our strength in consumer internet and extend our presence to industrial internet," said Ma Huateng, also known as Pony Ma, chairman and chief executive officer, in the fiscal report.

Against a backdrop of U.S.-China trade war and dependent on massive WeChat and QQ user bases, Tencent over the past few years, has reshuffled its focus from online gaming strength to the industrial internet. The restructuring aims to see the more businesses devoted to cloud and smart industries and converging the digital and physical worlds, while connecting industries and consumers to "build a more open ecosystem."

By providing advanced technologies to support partners to upgrade their capabilities, it was "jointly developing digital solutions for different verticals," said Martin Lau, president of Tencent during a 2019 presentation of its industrial internet strategies. 

Tencent has reportedly invested in more than 600 companies in various sectors including digital content, social platforms, smart retailing and fintech as part of this strategy.

Its 2020 fiscal results for the fourth quarter and full year are expected to be released in March.