Evergrande boss is wealthiest as China's rich get richer

3 min

Shanghai (AFP)

The net worth of China's ultra-rich surged this year with Evergrande real estate mogul Xu Jiayin's $43 billion fortune catapulting him to the top, a survey released Thursday said.

An all-time high 2,130 people made the annual ranking of China's richest individuals compiled by Shanghai-based luxury magazine publisher Hurun Report, which lists all those in China with a net worth of $300 million or more.

An additional 74 people made the list this year, Hurun Report said, adding that the size of the average fortune rose 12.5 percent to $1.2 billion while those in the elite 100 saw their values surge 60 percent.

But not everyone fared so well, with last year's richest person Wang Jianlin, the head of conglomerate Wanda, tumbling to fifth.

Wang's estimated wealth was slashed by a third to $28 billion after authorities began targeting his sprawling business empire over worries of excessive debt from an overseas acquisition binge.

Xu's net worth nearly tripled over the past year as shares of Evergrande, one of China's biggest real estate developers, zoomed around 450 percent. The 59-year-old Xu moved up nine places.

He was followed by Pony Ma, head of communications giant Tencent, which owns China's ubiquitous social networking app WeChat.

The 46-year-old Ma's worth grew 52 percent to $37 billion after Tencent shares nearly doubled this year, allowing him to overtake last year's No. 2, Jack Ma of e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Alibaba's Ma slipped to third with a worth of $30 billion, down two percent due largely to a major reduction in his ownership share of affiliate Ant Financial, which operates popular Chinese online payment system Alipay, Hurun Report said.

In a testament to Alibaba's growing e-commerce dominance, 43 individuals from Alibaba or Ant Financial made the list.

Concerns over China's slowing economic growth have eased this year as GDP continued to expand at a steady pace, while some sectors such as real estate, manufacturing, and internet-related businesses boom, with their share prices soaring.

"This year we found more than 2,000 individuals with $300 million, double that of five years ago and four times that of ten years ago," said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of Hurun Report.

Among the biggest movers were Wang Wei, head of delivery firm SF Express, which has thrived amid China's e-commerce boom.

Wang, 47, wasn't even on the list previously but the firm's IPO early this year launched him to number six at $22 billion.

Moving in the other direction was Jia Yueting, founder of troubled conglomerate LeEco, which has run into deep supply chain and cash-flow problems after expanding too fast into a range of high-tech industries.

Jia plummeted all the way from 31st down to 1,978th -- this year's biggest fall -- to a net worth of $300 million.

China's Top Ten

1 Xu Jiayin (Evergrande) $43bn

2 Pony Ma (Tencent) $37bn

3 Jack Ma (Alibaba) & family $30bn

4 Yang Huiyan (Country Garden) $24bn

5 Wang Jianlin (Wanda Group) & family $23bn

6 Wang Wei (SF Express) $22bn

7 Robin Li & Melissa Ma (Baidu) $19bn

8 Yan Hao (China Pacific Construction) & family $17bn

8 He Xiangjian & He Jianfeng (Midea) $17bn

10 Ding Lei (Netease) $16bn

10 Li Shufu & Li Xingxing (Geely) $16bn