HK tycoons among world's uber-rich
David Watkins in New York
Li Ka-shing is 10th wealthiest man on Forbes magazine's list of billionaires
Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing has returned to the top 10 of the world's richest people this year with a fortune of US$18.8 billion, according to rankings by Forbes magazine.
Mr Li leaped to 10th spot on this year's rich list, up from 22nd place with a net worth of US$13 billion last year. He was last in the top 10 in 1996 - ranking 7th with US$10.6 billion.
Hong Kong contributed 18 of the world's 793 billionaires, including Sun Hung Kai Properties' Kwok brothers, who share a net worth of US$11.6 billion and rank at 35. But unlike most Hong Kong billionaires, who climbed the wealth rankings this year, the Kwoks slid from 31st position with a US$10.9 billion fortune last year.
Closely following the Kwoks at 37th spot is Lee Shau-kee with a net worth of US$11 billion, up from 38th spot and a fortune of US$9.3 billion a year ago. In 1996 he was the world's fourth-richest man, worth US$12.7 billion.
Stanley Ho Hung-sun also enjoys a gain from last year, moving up to 84th place with US$6.5 billion, from 151 and US$3.6 billion. And after settling her legal woes, Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum's US$4.2 billion takes her to 154th place this year, up from 188 with US$3.1 billion.
The Forbes list ranks tycoons with publicly traded fortunes. Their net worth was calculated according to share prices and exchange rates on February 13.
With little room for new faces at the top of the pile in Hong Kong, two new billionaires managed to muscle in. Gaming magnate Lui Che-woo, whose net worth of US$1.5 billion ranks him at 512, placed beneath fellow newcomer, real estate tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung, whose US$1.7 billion puts him at 451.
'What is driving Hong Kong fortunes is the appreciation of real estate prices,' said Forbes' associate editor Louisa Kroll, who helped compile the report along with more than 30 reporters in seven countries.
Despite the underwhelming performance of its stock market, the mainland created four new billionaires, bringing its total to eight.
One of these is internet supremo William Ding, at 645 on the list with US$1.2 billion, while at joint 451st place Larry Rong Zhijian, whose diversified portfolio of interests gives him a net worth of US$1.7 billion, joins Gome founder Wong Kwong-yu as the top-ranked mainlanders.
Taiwan's Cher Wang, daughter of plastics giant Y.C. Wang and one of only 78 women on the list, managed to turn her obsession with gadgets into a fortune big enough to debut at 365th place with US$2.1 billion. Her father is 107th with US$5.4 billion.