Asia Briefing: Richest man in China sees 20 more years of growth to come
Last week, Wang was named China’s richest man by Forbes magazine, which put his fortune at €10.5 billion, overtaking the previous title-holder Zong Qinghou, chairman of local drinks company Wahaha, whom regular readers will recall recently hosted Irish businesses at his Hangzhou headquarters.
Founded in 1988, the Wanda group has assets of €37 billion and €17.4 billion in annual revenue. Wang said he’s ready to spend more than €3.75 billion in a single purchase if the right opportunity comes along.
Wanda is quite an empire. The group operates 72 Wanda plazas, 38 five-star hotels, more than 6,000 cinema screens, 62 department stores and 68 karaoke outlets.
The 58-year-old Sichuan native last year gave a clear signal of his intentions when Wanda bought the US cinema chain AMC Entertainment for €2 billion, becoming the world’s biggest cinema operator.
Wanda owns more than 9 million sq m of investment property and has been busy buying up assets in many developed markets. Wang has just completed a €1.2 billion shopping spree in Britain, which included the purchase of luxury British yacht builder Sunseeker and investment in a 160-room high-rise hotel project in London. Other overseas plans include a five-star hotel in New York. He has said he wants to build Wanda hotels in eight to 10 cities outside China over the next decade.
Wang, who served in the People’s Liberation Army from 1970 to 1986, joined the Communist Party in 1976 and has been a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a top parliamentary advisory body since 2008.
Later this month, the company will hold opening ceremonies for its new €3.7 billion film studio in the coastal city of Qingdao. Wang says the Chinese economy will keep growing strongly because migration to the cities is not finished, and he sees a key role for Wanda in this urbanisation.
More than half of the people live in cities. “By 2020 China’s goal is to reach 70 per cent of the population in cities, another 200 million people entering the cities,” he told a forum in Chengdu earlier this year. “They need jobs, they need a house, an apartment. They need to go to movies. They need to eat. So it’s a huge market there.
“Therefore I believe China’s market to be maintained at a high growth rate, 8 per cent, slightly slower, slightly higher, but I think we still will have about 20 years of this type growth rate, because of urbanisation,” he said.