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Alibaba's founders set up charitable trust seen valued at $3 billion

The founders of Chinese internet company Alibaba Group have set up a charitable trust focusing on the environment and health that could be worth as much as $3 billion, making it one of the biggest in Asia.

Jack Ma, Alibaba's founder and executive chair, and Joe Tsai, a co-founder of Alibaba, created the trust that will be funded by share options that represent about 2 percent of their combined equity in Alibaba, the company said in a statement on its microblog on Thursday.

A hand-painted wall showing the Alibaba's international business at the Alibaba Group headquarters on March 29, 2014 in Hangzhou.
Hong Wu | Getty Images News
A hand-painted wall showing the Alibaba's international business at the Alibaba Group headquarters on March 29, 2014 in Hangzhou.

Alibaba did not give a value for the investment. The trust is being set up as Alibaba prepares for a highly anticipated initial public offering that could value the company at $151 billion, according to analysts. That would give the trust a value of $3.02 billion.

"It is impossible for me to be a doctor. But I can have my own way to save lives," Ma was quoted by the state news agency Xinhua as saying. Ma's personal fortune is worth around $8.9 billion, according to Forbes.

Read More What is Alibaba really worth?

Alibaba, founded 15 years ago by Ma, has cornered the Chinese Internet consumer market and expanded into everything from online auctions to messaging and payments.

Philanthropy in China has yet to take off, as some wealthy Chinese fear generous donations could invite unwanted attention on their fortunes. China ranks towards the bottom of the list of countries where people give money to charity, volunteer or help a stranger, according to The World Giving Index, compiled by the Charities Aid Foundation.

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