Saturday 21 September 2019

Property developer Xu Jiayin new number one on China rich list

Adam Jourdan

China has a new richest citizen, according to the annual Hurun rich list of the country's top movers and shakers.

Xu Jiayin, the chairman of developer China Evergrande Group, has seized top spot - beating more familiar faces such as Alibaba Group Holding's Jack Ma and rival property magnate Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda Group.

Xu's reported $43bn (€36bn) wealth - a gain of around $30bn against last year - comes on the back of a surge in Evergrande's shares, which are up more than 450pc so far this year amid plans to cut debt and focus on profit over scale.

The Hurun Report, established in 1999, is the leading China-based organisation ranking the wealth of the country's rich and famous. Its annual list provides a temperature check on the winners and losers.

Growth in China stabilised this year, but while the world's second-largest economy averted a hard landing, some major corporations have buckled under the weight of their debt or been sanctioned by authorities over risky investments overseas.

Wanda's Wang - who took top spot for the last two years - dropped to fifth in the list after Wanda sold off much of the firm's hotel and theme park assets to rivals in July, after coming under regulatory scrutiny over its high leverage.

Close behind Evergrande's Xu were China's top tech titans - Alibaba's Mr Ma and Tencent Holdings's Pony Ma, who has seen his firm's value rise on the popularity of its WeChat messaging app and its popular online games.

The list also underlined those who have fallen from grace in corporate China.

Jia Yueting, founder of sprawling conglomerate LeEco that once looked to rival both Tesla and Netflix, dropped to 1,978th place from 31st last year.

Yang Kai, chairman of embattled Huishan Dairy - 66th last year - dropped off the list entirely as his firm fights off creditors amid billions of dollars of unpaid debt.

On the up was Wuxi Pharma Tech's Li Ge and his wife, propelled by China's push towards drug innovation, Zhang Lei of fast-growing online news portal Toutiao and Li Shufu of carmaker Geely Automobile Holdings.

"It has been a good year for manufacturing, cars, education, TMT and healthcare," Hurun founder Rupert Hoogewerf said.

While many of those on the 2,000-strong list were members of the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, only a few were delegates at the upcoming five-yearly Party Congress that begins next week.

These included corn magnate Li Denghai, alcohol billionaire Wu Shaoxun and Pan Gang of dairy giant Yili.

The list, with a combined wealth of $2.6trn, saw average wealth rising 12.5pc - faster than broader economic growth - pointing to the growing financial muscle of China's super-rich elite. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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