British entrepreneur Richard Branson.

London - The first billionaires from outside the US today announced they would donate at least half of their wealth to philanthropy, joining the Giving Pledge initiative started by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates.

The twelve new signatories include UK entrepreneur Richard Branson, Russian nickel and media mogul Vladimir Potanin and India’s software magnate Azim Premji.

A total of 105 families from nine countries have now signed the pledge, according to an e-mailed statement from the initiative.

“I genuinely believe that wealth should work for the public good,” Potanin said in a letter to the Giving Pledge.

“The decision I made is not just an attempt to be remembered as a philanthropist. I also see it as a way to protect my children from the burden of the extreme wealth, which may deprive them of any motivation to achieve anything in life on their own.”

The other new participants announced were John Caudwell, Chris and Jamie Cooper-Hohn, Andrew and Nicola Forrest, Mo Ibrahim, Patrice and Precious Motsepe, Hasso Plattner, David Sainsbury and Vincent Tan Chee Yioun.

Members of the Giving Pledge commit to give away at least half their wealth to charitable organizations and philanthropic causes. Co-founder Buffett, 82, is the fourth-richest person on the planet with a net worth of $53.5 billion, according to Bloomberg’s daily ranking. Gates, 57, has a fortune of $66.2 billion.

“I am excited about the conversations and ideas that will happen thanks to this impressive group of international philanthropists,” Gates, the world’s second-richest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, said in the statement.

“In many cases, their perspectives on giving will be informed by living much closer to the areas of greatest need.”

Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, said his family will invest in “entrepreneurial approaches to help make a difference in the world,” when they take their wealth out of Virgin’s airline, media and other holdings.

“’Stuff’ really is not what brings happiness,” Branson said in his letter.

“Family, friends, good health and the satisfaction that comes from making a positive difference are what really matters. Happily our children, who will be our principal heirs, agree with me on this.” - Bloomberg News