Billionaire boom in China despite pandemic

Top News | Agencies and Winnie Lee 21 Oct 2020

Booming stock markets and a flurry of new listings created five new US dollar billionaires in China a week for the past year despite the pandemic.

And on the highest rung in the wealth ladder sat Alibaba founder Jack Ma Yun, the No 1 on the Hurun China Rich List for the third year in a row.

Ma's personal wealth jumped 45 percent to 400 billion yuan (HK$463.9 billion).

The list highlights China's accelerated shift away from traditional sectors like manufacturing and real estate toward e-commerce, fintech and other new-economy industries.

Ma's wealth growth was partly due to the impending mega-listing of fintech giant Ant Group.

Above him was Tencent founder Pony Ma Huateng with 390 billion yuan.

SF Express boss Dick Wong's wealth almost doubled to 240 billion yuan, ranking him fourth. The combined fortune of those on the list - with the individual wealth cut-off at 2 billion yuan - totaled 27.5 trillion yuan, which is more than the annual gross domestic product of Germany, said Rupert Hoogewerf, the Hurun Report's chairman.

More wealth was created this year than in the previous five years combined, with China's rich-listers adding 54 percent year-on-year, or US$1.5 trillion (HK$11.7 trillion), roughly half the size of Britain's GDP.

The number of billionaires widened by 32 percent to 2,398, a new high.

"The world has never seen this much wealth created in just one year," said Hoogewerf. "China's entrepreneurs have done much better than expected. Despite Covid-19, they have risen to record levels."

An estimate by PricewaterhouseCoopers and UBS showed only billionaires in the United States possessed greater combined wealth than those in China.

The proportion of billionaires engaging in the real estate industry has fallen the most in recent years. The top two property tycoons are still Xu Jiayin from China Evergrande, who ranked fifth on the list with a wealth of 235 billion yuan, and the Yang Huiyan family from Country Garden, sixth with 225 billion yuan.

The wealth of Pinduoduo's Colin Huang rose 62 percent to 220 billion yuan, ranking eighth.

Hoogewerf said Huang transferred nearly 100 billion yuan to charity and stock incentive compensation this year. If it was included, the rank of Huang would have been fourth.

Wang Xing, the founder of food delivery app Meituan, quadrupled his wealth and jumped 52 places to 13th on the list with 170 billion yuan, while Richard Liu Qiangdong, the founder of online shopping platform, doubled his money to 160 billion yuan.

Health-care entrepreneurs also moved up the list on the back of the pandemic, with Jiang Rensheng, founder of vaccine-maker Zhifei, tripling his value to 132 billion yuan.

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