Evergrande boss is China's richest man

Property tycoon Xu Jiayin saw his wealth more than triple to US$43 billion, topping the Hurun Rich List this year.

Property tycoon Xu Jiayin saw his wealth more than triple to US$43 billion, topping the Hurun Rich List this year.

Xu, chairman of Evergrande Group, becomes the 12th person to top the list — which covers the Chinese mainland — since the compilation began 19 years ago.

The average wealth of billionaires on the rich list rose 12.5 percent to US$1.2 billion, with the top 100 shooting up 60 percent annually, according to the list, which was released yesterday.

Wealth calculations are based on market data as of August 15.

“This year we found more than 2,000 individuals with wealth worth US$300 million, double that of five years ago and four times that of 10 years ago,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun’s chairman and chief researcher.

Tencent Chairman Pony Ma saw his assets rise 52 percent to US$37 billion, surpassing Alibaba’s Jack Ma, whose assets dropped to US$30 billion after cutting his stake in Ant Financial last year to 1.2 percent from 35.5 percent.

Xu has knocked Wang Jianlin, founder of the Dalian Wanda entertainment and real estate empire, off his long-time position at No. 1 on the list.

Xu has been likened by some media to Donald Trump, having built his fortune on a real estate business that has blossomed under a mountain of debt.

The 59-year-old Xu’s Evergrande has a market value of US$47 billion, although its total debt stands at more than US$100 billion, an issue that has prompted some wary investors to short the stock.

Evergrande, China’s second-most indebted company, has now pledged to cut its net debt ratio to around 70 percent by June 2020 from 240 percent.

Xu’s wealth has climbed by US$30 billion in the past year thanks to a boom in the value of Chinese property assets.

He founded Evergrande in 1996 and listed it in Hong Kong in 2009. Acquisition-hungry Evergrande, which has developed thousands of middle-class homes in China, made headlines in 2010 when it bought the main soccer club in its home town of Guangzhou for 100 million yuan (US$15 million).

In 2014, Xu sold a half stake in the club to China’s biggest e-commerce company Alibaba for US$192 million.

Female millionaires make up just over a quarter of the Hurun list (26 percent), and 70 percent of those women’s fortunes are self-made.

Yang Huiyan, the majority shareholder of Country Garden Holdings, has again become the richest woman in China — after an 11-year gap.

Manufacturing is the key industry for the rich list, accounting for 28 percent of millionaires listed, followed by real estate, TMT (technology, media and telecom), investment and health care.

New entries making it to the top 10 of the Hurun Rich List this year are Yang, Wang Wei from SF Express, and in 10th place Geely’s Li Shufu together with his son Li Xingxing.

The number of dollar billionaires in China rose to 647, up 53 from last year.

A total of 43 individuals from e-commerce giant Alibaba and its financial affiliate Ant Financial were included in the rich list, thanks to the booming popularity and market value of the two companies.

The 26-year-old founder of bike-sharing service ofo, Dai Wei, became the youngest self-made entrepreneur on the list.

Jia Yueting of LeEco dropped down from 31st place last year to 1,978th place, after his wealth shrank 95 percent due to supply chain stress and cash-flow problems. 

Beijing is still the preferred city of residence for 300 individuals on the list, ahead of Shenzhen’s 223.

Hangzhou is catching up with Shanghai fast, with 153 billionaire residents compared with Shanghai’s 174.

The Hurun Report is regarded as the leading China-based organization ranking the wealth of the country’s rich and famous.

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