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Sunday 22 September 2019

Property mogul tops China's rich list containing '36% of world's billionaires'

Evergrande China founder Xu Jiayin attending a 2015 news conference for the Guangzhou Evergrande football team (AP)
Evergrande China founder Xu Jiayin attending a 2015 news conference for the Guangzhou Evergrande football team (AP)

Property tycoon Xu Jiayin has vaulted to the top of a Chinese rich list after his wealth quadrupled, knocking Wang Jianlin off his longtime position at number one.

The Hurun Report, China's best-known list of its wealthiest people, estimated that wealth held by Mr Xu, founder of developer Evergrande, surged to 43 billion US dollars (£32.5bn), moving him up nine places from last year.

Another property mogul, Yang Huiyan of developer Country Garden, rose 18 spots to fourth place as her fortune more than tripled to 24 billion dollars (£18.1bn).

Mr Wang, head of real estate and leisure conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, fell from first to fifth place as his wealth shrank 28% to 23 billion dollars (£17.4bn), the report said.

He had held the top spot since 2013.

The changes reflect how property developers have benefited from soaring Chinese prices that have driven apartment sales and boosted their companies' share prices even as Beijing has sought to cool the market, Hurun chief executive Rupert Hoogewerf said.

"They've put a lot of their eggs in that basket and they're reaping their rewards," Mr Hoogewerf said.

Evergrande, based in the southern city of Guangzhou, is one of China's biggest property developers.

Mr Xu, 59, is known as an avid supporter of Chinese football and has invested in the sport domestically.

Familiar faces from China's tech industry rounded out the top five, with Pony Ma of Internet company Tencent moving up one place to second with 37 billion US dollars (£28bn) in wealth as his company's shares rallied 60% this year.

He overtook Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, who slipped to third with 30 billion dollars (£22.7bn) after his stake in finance company Ant Financial was reduced.

Mr Wang's slide reflects Beijing's efforts to tighten up on companies piling up debt to make major investments abroad and instead encourage entrepreneurs to focus on domestic growth.

Under Mr Wang's leadership, Dalian Wanda started as a property developer and then branched out by acquiring a Hollywood studio, US cinema chains, Spanish football teams and a British yacht maker.

But his global ambitions were thwarted as Beijing clamped down on outbound investment, both to rein in excessive spending on foreign entertainment and sports assets not seen as useful for developing China's economy and to avoid running down the country's foreign exchange reserves.

Mr Hoogewerf said Mr Wang's fortunes declined after he de-listed Wanda from Hong Kong's stock exchange last year, missing out on a mini-boom for Chinese developers.

Wanda's other woes include being forced to sell off most of its Chinese theme parks and hotels to rivals and failing to follow through on its proposed acquisition of Dick Clark Productions.

Hurun turned up 647 Chinese billionaires in its 19th rich list, accounting for 36% of the world total.

As recently as 2003 the country had none.


PA Media

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