Hurun Research Institute yesterday released the Top Five of the Hurun Rich List 2010, the twelfth annual ranking of the richest individuals in China. The complete Hurun Rich List 2010, China’s equivalent of the Forbes list, listing 1363 individuals with personal wealth of at least a billion Chinese yuan (US$150 million), will be released mid-October. Hurun is a luxury publishing group run by British accountant Rupert Hoogewerf in Shanghai.
Twelve billion dollars. That’s what it takes to be named the richest person in China. China’s richest individual is Zong Qinghua with $12 billion, a fortune that is however dwarfed by the $53.5 billion amassed by Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, who this year beat Bill Gates to the title of world’s richest person.
Zong Qinghou, 65, the Chinese soft drinks magnate famous for tackling the French Danone group in China’s highest-profile foreign investment dispute, has been named the mainland’s richest man with a personal fortune of $12bn. Zong tops a list of 1,363 yuan billionaires in China — up from 1,000 last year.
Zong heads Wahaha, China’s leading soft drinks company, which recently emerged largely victorious from a protracted global legal battle with Danone, its former joint venture partner. “Drinks King” Zong, 65, has overseen Wahaha’s rise to become China’s dominant drinks business with expected profits this year of US$1.5bn and 30,000 employees,” the Hurun Report, which compiles the list, said in a statement. He rose from 12th place last year.
After battling Zong in litigation and arbitration proceedings from Samoa to the British Virgin Islands, Danone last year decided to sell its 51 per cent share of the joint venture to Zong for only €300m — despite winning a partial ruling in its favour from a Stockholm arbitration panel. Danone had alleged that Zong — who managed the joint venture’s 36 subsidiaries — ran parallel operations that competed against the joint venture.
Zong and his wife and daughter hold 60 per cent of shares in the Wahaha group, which dominates China’s soft drinks market and has expanded into food products.
Zong was one of two drinks makers in the top five of the Rich List, released in Shanghai on Wednesday, underlining the strength of some Chinese consumer goods brands, and an unexpected rise in the proportion of manufacturers at the top of the list, at the expense of property developers.
“2010 is the first time in ten years a property tycoon has not made the Top Five,” says Rupert Hoogewerf, the list’s founder. He noted that China’s fourth wealthiest man, Liang Wen’gen, made his fortune from selling construction equipment — rather than from property speculation.
“Liang sells construction equipment to businesses feeding off the great Chinese urbanisation boom and has, in the process, made himself richer than any property developer”, says Mr Hoogewerf.
On average, the Hurun Rich Lister started out aged 34 in 1993, and is today 51 years of age. This is fifteen years younger than US or European counterparts, with faster growth in their fortunes.
“China probably now has the largest number of billionaires anywhere in the world,” says Rupert Hoogewerf. “We already know of 189 US dollar billionaires in China this year, but you can safely say that we have missed at least half again, meaning there are between 400 and 500 USD billionaires.”
The most popular family names in this year’s list are Wang with 103 people, Zhang 95, Li 92, Chen 89, Liu 59, Huang 47 and Wu 40. Interestingly, Zong Qinghou, this year’s Number One, is the only one with the surname Zong.
The Hurun Rich List is a snapshot of wealth as of 16 August 2010. The exchange rate used for US$ was RMB 6.8. The list relates to Mainland Chinese only, defined as someone born and brought up in Mainland China, no matter what passport they might hold today.
Last year’s number one, 44-year-old Wang Chuanfu, has seen his wealth drop ten percent as a result of his company’s waning fortunes on the stock market, placing him twelfth on the list with US$4.6 billion. The Warren Buffet-backed auto entrepreneur’s wealth was accumulated mainly from his BYD high-technology firm, which has specialized in batteries for mobile telephones and electric vehicles. BYD has recently had to cut its forecast of conventional car production for this year from 800,000 to 600,000. Delays in production of his electric cars have led the market to conclude that it may be years before BYD’s green cars make a big contribution to profits.
2008’s number one, Huang Guangyu, the imprisoned electronics tycoon and founder of Gome, the Chinese electronics empire, ranked 21 despite losing a protracted battle — waged from his jail cell — to replace the current Gome chairman with Mr Huang’s sister. Huang is serving 14-year prison sentence for insider share-trading, bribery and other offences.
With its emerging wealth, China also has a growing income gap. The minimum monthly wage in parts of China is as low as 660 yuan ($95). China’s top leaders have made boosting farmers’ incomes a top political priority as they worry about social unrest.
Here are China’s top 5 richest people in 2010 according to Hurun:
1) 65-year old Zong Qinghou of Wahaha is the richest man in China with a personal fortune of US$12 billion. ‘Drinks King’ Zong has grown Wahaha into China’s dominant drinks business with expected profits this year of US$1.5 billion and 30,000 employees. This year, Wahaha finally settled its protracted dispute with France-based Danone. Zong, who, together with his wife and daughter owns 60% of Wahaha, has jumped up from twelfth place in last year’s list. The owner of a company best known for its soft drinks brands was named as China’s richest person with a personal fortune estimated at some 12 billion dollars on Thursday. Zong Qinghou, 65, shot to the top of the annual China Rich List of the country’s wealthiest entrepreneurs after his Wahaha group settled a long dispute with French firm Danone, the Shanghai-based Hurun Report said. Zong, his wife and daughter hold 60 per cent of shares in the Wahaha group, which dominates China’s soft drinks market and has expanded into food products.
2) Li Li & family caused a sensation when drug maker Shenzhen Hepalink Pharmaceutical went public in May, catapulting him straight into second place on the list with a personal fortune of US$6 billion. Li Li, 46 years, his wife Li Tan and her cousin Shan Yu founded the business in 1998 and together own a 75.6% stake. Hepalink makes heparin, a blood thinner purified from pig intestines, used to prevent blood clots. This is the first time a pharmaceutical tycoon has made it into the Top Five of the Hurun Rich List — underlining the rise of local drug companies eager to serve the rapidly expanding Chinese healthcare market.
3) 53-year-old Zhang Yin, founder of the paper-recycling giant Nine Dragons Paper, sees her wealth grow by almost a billion US dollars to US$5.6 billion on the back of growth in the domestic retail market. Li Li’s rise, however, drops Zhang down one place to third. Notwithstanding this, Zhang remains the richest woman in China, and the richest self-made woman in the world. “Paper Queen” Zhang Yin, who in 2006 became the first woman to head the list, remains China’s richest woman and now ranks third in the list.
4) Liang Wengen of Sany Heavy Industry Co. Ltd is proof of the adage that if you want to make money in a gold rush, sell shovels to gold miners. 54 year old Liang jumped 16 places to fourth with a personal fortune of US$5.4 billion. Liang sells construction equipment to businesses feeding off the great Chinese urbanisation boom and has, in the process, made himself richer than any property developer.
Liang’s wealth rose sharply largely after listing a second subsidiary, this time in Hong Kong. The only company from the Hurun Top Five headquartered in China’s poorer Western regions, Liang has overseen Sany’s growth into one of the world’s biggest makers of construction equipment, with sales last year of US$4.5 billion and 46,000 employees. Liang owns 58.2% of the group.
5) Fifth of the list is a tie between Robin Li Yanhong with search engine company Baidu Inc. and Yan Bin of Ruoy Chai International Group, whose brands include Red Bull energy drinks.
Robin Li Yanhong saw his wealth double year on year, placing him fifth on the list with US$5.3 billion. 42-year-old Li has Google’s departure from China to thank for Baidu’s sharp share increase, and is this year lining up Baidu to take on Taobao in the online shopping market.
Yan Bin has grown his fortune on the back of a strong performance in sales of Red Bull energy drinks in China, which are expected to hit US$800 million this year. Fifty-six year old Yan started his business in Thailand and is also known by his Thai name of Chanchai Ruayrungruang. Apart from Red Bull, Yan owns the luxury Reignwood Group, which includes the best-known golf club in Beijing. He is the second drink maker in the Top 5.