China's annual rich list sees dramatic shifts in wealth

Huang Yixuan
The 2018 Hurun China Rich List was released on Wednesday, and Alibaba's Ma Yun became the richest man in China with a fortune of US$39 billion.
Huang Yixuan
China's annual rich list sees dramatic shifts in wealth

The 2018 Hurun China Rich List was released today, with Ma Yun of Alibaba becoming the richest man in China, with a fortune of US$39 billion.

Only 1,893 individuals made the cut this year, down 11 percent from 2,130 individuals last year. This is the first drop in the size of the list since 2012. 

"A 20 percent drop in the stock exchange, on the back of a slowing economy and the US-China trade tension, resulted in 456 drop-offs this year, the highest since records began twenty years ago," Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Hurun Report said.

Hoogewerf highlighted the influence of the depression on the stock markets. "This year, entrepreneurs from 34 listed companies had their shares frozen," he said.

The Shanghai Composite Index was down 16 percent to 2,700 points in the year ending 15 August, after rising 4 percent last year. The Shenzhen Stock Index was down 19 percent to 8,600 points after declining 2.4 percent last year. The Growth Enterprise Index was down 18 percent for the second year, to 1,500 points. The Hong Kong Hang Seng Index edged up 1 percent to 27,300 points, after soaring 19 percent last year. 

"Wealth in China is becoming more concentrated. The wealth of the Hurun Top 10, for example, accounted for 10 percent of the total wealth on the list, and that of the Top 200 accounted for half of the total wealth on the list," Hoogewerf said.

Ma Yun, 54, and his family shot back to the top of the list for the second time in four years. Ma’s wealth increased by US$10 billion to US$39 billion this year, on the back of a hike in the valuation of Alipay mothership Ant Financial. 

Meanwhile, real estate tycoon Xu Jiayin, 60, of Evergrande — last year’s richest person — claimed second place, followed by Pony Ma Huateng of Tencent. 

"The 'Big Three' are pulling away from the rest," Hoogewerf said.

There were 219 new faces, led by 38-year old Colin Huang Zheng of e-commerce giant Pinduoduo, and five new faces shot straight into the Top 100. Others include ‘Battery King’ Zeng Yuqun of CATL, a battery maker for the e-car industry, and ‘Blockchain King’ Zhan Ketuan of Bitmain.

Lei Jun, of smartphone maker Xiaomi, saw his wealth shoot up the fastest at a massive 62 percent to US$16 billion, breaking him into the top 10. 

Hoogewerf said, "The scalability of the market coupled with a strong investor ecosystem is creating big new businesses fast."

Wu Gang and Huang Xiaojie, both of JD Capital, saw their wealth drop 85 percent, Meitu’s Wu Xinhong and Cai Wensheng saw their wealth drop over 50 percent, Jiang Bin and wife Hu Shuangmei of acoustic component maker GoerTek saw their wealth drop by over 50 percent, and last year’s richest self-made women, ‘Touchscreen Queen’ Zhou Qunfei and husband Zheng Junlong, saw their wealth drop 45 percent.

The top 10 of the list created seven Fortune Global 500 companies, including Alibaba, Evergrande, Tencent, Country Garden, Midea, China Pacific Construction and Amer. 

By industry, 60 percent of the list made their wealth from the "Big Four" industries of manufacturing, real estate, investments and Internet technology. 

Manufacturing has been the main source of wealth for the past five years, although the number of individuals from this sector dropped slightly to 26.1 percent from last year’s 27.9 percent, on the back of the US-China trade war. 

Real estate, which was the top wealth creator for the first 15 years of the list, came in second, edging up from 14.6 percent to 14.9 percent. 

Finance and investments overtook IT, with investments up from 10.9 percent to 11.6 percent and IT down from 11.8 percent to 10.3 percent. 

New energy, retail, food, and clothing and apparel all edged up, whilst natural resources, culture and entertainment, and agriculture edged down.

It's worth mentioning that the number of women in the list made up 28.7 percent, a record high since the list began 20 years ago. Yang Huiyan of Country Garden remained the richest female in China, with wealth totaling US$22 billion.

The list released by rich list compiler and research platform Hurun Report welcomed its 20th anniversary and was presented in association with Lexus this year. 

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