Bill Gates gives away $4.6 billion in Microsoft shares

Bill Gates, the richest person in the world, is giving away more of his staggering wealth.

According to an SEC filing released Monday, Gates gifted $4.6 billion worth of stock, his largest donation to charity since 2000. Bloomberg reports that, the 64 million shares of Microsoft stock represents about 5 per cent of Gates' wealth and reduces his stake in Microsoft to 1.3 per cent from a high of 24 per cent in 1996.

The gift was not pledged to a specific entity, but in the past most of Gates' donations have gone to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which directs the money to various causes supported by Gates.

In 2010, Gates joined with Warren Buffett to create the Giving Pledge, in which they promised to give away the bulk of their fortunes and challenging other megawealthy individuals to do the same. The pledge has been signed by 170 others, including Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos, who briefly overtook Gates as the richest person in the world last month, has yet to sign the pledge, but is reportedly actively seeking charitable endeavours.

Meanwhile, Gates yesterday unveiled a new campaign to combat the spread of malaria. Under his new initiative, the Gates Foundation will donate a mosquito net for every person who reads his latest blog post and takes a subsequent quiz.

Gates now owns 1.3 per cent of the company's outstanding shares, down from 2.3 per cent before he made the $4.6 billion gift. Microsoft stock currently accounts for just 9 per cent of his overall net worth, which stood at an estimated $85.2 billion, according to Forbes.

The mosquito net initiative got underway with a blog posted yesterday. Dubbed ''Mosquito Wars,'' the campaign forms part of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's broader effort to combat malaria.

Each donated net will go to families in the Inhambane region of Mozambique, where the disease continued to bedevil the people, and will be distributed by nonprofit World Vision.