Wang Jianlin is still China’s wealthiest man, with 215 billion yuan fortune

But after growing his personal worth by 2 billion yuan per week, ‘Vanke raider’ Yao Zhenhua emerges from nowhere to come fourth in latest Hurun rankings

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 October, 2016, 4:14pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 1:01am

Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, has retained his top ranking as China’s wealthiest man, but the chairman of a previously obscure insurer has emerged from nowhere to become fourth on a new list of the country’s uber-wealthy.

Wang is now worth 215 billion yuan, generated from his property-to-entertainment conglomerate.

He is closely followed by Alibaba Group Holding’s founder Jack Ma, whose fortune swelled 41 per cent over the year to 205 billion yuan, and Tencent Holdings’ chairman Pony Ma, whose 38 per cent surge in wealth to 165 billion yuan elevated him to third in the league.

Arguably the most notable name at the top of the listings, though, is Yao Zhenhua, the chairman of Baoneng Group, in fourth place.

Yao has been propelled up the rankings thanks to his audacious bid to take over China’s largest housebuilder, China Vanke, according to the annual Hurun list of China’s most-minted individuals, released yesterday.

The top 10 continued to be dominated by IT and property magnates, but Yao has seen his fortune skyrocket 820 per cent to 115 billion yuan in the past year.

Recently dubbed by the media as the “Vanke raider”, the previously low-key 46-year-old overtook 200 people on the list from last year.

His little-known insurance firm this year became the largest shareholder in Vanke, sparking in the process a fierce corporate ownership battle involving several prominent players, including state-owned investment conglomerate China Resources and China’s second largest property group, Evergrande Real Estate.

“Yao Zhenhua grew his wealth by an average 2 billion yuan per week,” said Hurun founder Rupert Hoogewerf.

“Yao’s financial investment model represents the new wave of wealth creation in China. The first money made in China 20 years ago came from trading, followed by manufacturing, real estate, IT and today it is about using the capital markets for financial investments.”

Baoneng is actually a network of some 40 subsidiaries, covering real estate and logistics, microfinance, education, health care and most crucially insurance.

Other billionaire risers who made it into the top 10 this year include the chairman of Evergrande, who has also played a role in the fight for Vanke, after increasing his company’s stake in the takeover target in August to become its third largest shareholder.

More than a third of the world’s new billionaires were created in China last year, helping Asia overtake the US for the first time to become home to the biggest number of the ultra wealthy globally, according to the UBS/PwC Billionaire Report 2016 unveiled Thursday.

With an average age of 53, almost half of the new Chinese billionaire entrepreneurs amassed their fortunes from technology, consumer and retail, as well as real estate sectors, the report indicated.

However, the region’s super-rich also fell prey to a stagnant economy, financial market turmoil and depreciation of their currencies , which had curbed billionaire wealth across Asia by 6 per cent from US$1.6 trillion to US$1.5 trillion in 2015.

More people in Asia dropped off from billionaire to millionaire last year than those in Europe and US.

“After experiencing headwinds, Chinese ultra-high-net-worth individuals are looking to diversify their assets into regions like Europe and US ... and also into real estate,”said Amy Lo, head of UBS Wealth Management Greater China. “We also see a rising interest in the technology sector, as they try to figure out both investment opportunities and what are potentially disrupting their own businesses.”

UBS said the world was about to witness the greatest handover of wealth in human history with approximately US$2.1 trillion – the equivalent of India’s gross domestic product – to be passed by 460 billionaires it surveyed on to their heirs in the coming 20 years.