Billionaire property magnate retains title as China’s richest person
Rich list shows China has more dollar billionaires than US but no super-rich in top 20
Wang Jianlin has topped the Chinese rich list for the third time. Photograph: Reuters
China may be on the verge, or even in the throes, of a property bubble, but the country’s richest person is still a real-estate developer, as Dalian Wanda chief Wang Jianlin retained the top spot in the annual Hurun rich list with wealth of 215 billion yuan (€29 billion).
This is the third time Mr Wang has topped the list of China’s richest, although his wealth fell 2 per cent during the year.
There are now 594 dollar billionaires in China, again putting China ahead of the United States’ 535, according to the report, although none of China’s super-rich make it into the global top 20 rankings.
The annual report by the Hurun group gives a great insight into the growing financial muscle of its super-rich.
Mr Wang edged out the Alibaba ecommerce group founder Jack Ma, whose wealth rose nearly 41 per cent last year, while Tencent founder Pony Ma moved up one spot to third place with a fortune of 165 billion yuan, up 38 per cent year on year.
There was surprise that the fastest riser in the ranks was corporate raider Yao Zhenhua, chairman of Baoneng Group, a real-estate and financial services group based in southern boom town Shenzhen, whose wealth shot up 820 per cent to 115 billion yuan.
This marked a rise of 200 places in the rankings to fourth.
Last year Baoneng bought a stake in the real-estate giant Vanke in a hostile takeover, which prompted the Vanke chairman Wang Shi to brand the private owners of Baoneng as “barbarians” and accuse them of misconduct.
“There’s a new type of wealth creation coming out,” Hurun chairman and chief researcher Rupert Hoogewerf told Reuters, adding that China was having to adapt as the wider economy was “very materially slowing down”.
“Today it is about using the capital markets for financial investment,” he said.
The super-rich tend to keep a low profile in China, but by accessing the capital markets and making other public investments, many tycoons are being thrown into the spotlight for the first time.
Mr Hoogewerf told the Financial Times it was noticeable how many billionaires the list missed, and said how in one visit to an investment company two weeks ago, 30 people were elevated to the list who had previously been off-list.
Intensified competition in the smartphone business saw Xiaomi founder Lei Jun fall out of the top 10.
“Despite a 20 per cent drop in the domestic stock markets and a slowdown in the economy, the Hurun rich list swelled by 179 to 2,056 individuals, double that of three years ago and up 10-fold from 10 years ago,” said Mr Hoogewerf. – (Additional reporting: agencies)