Beverage tycoon Zong Qinghou regained his position as China’s richest man this year, Forbes magazine said on Friday, but the global economic slump took its toll on other billionaires.
Zong, who heads soft-drink producer Wahaha, has a fortune of US$10 billion, according to the magazine’s influential annual ranking of China’s 400 richest people, helping him win back the position he lost last year.
A similar list released last month by the China-based Hurun Report also crowned Zong as China richest, but put his wealth at US$12.6 billion.
Last year’s number one on the list, construction equipment magnate Liang Wengen, slid to sixth place with US$5.9 billion as his Sany company was hit by weak demand for new building projects caused by a slowdown in China’s economy.
Forbes said the number of US dollar billionaires fell to 113 this year from 146 last year, while the wealth of China’s top 100 richest people fell seven per cent to US$220 billion.
“This year we encountered a long period of economic difficulty that’s rarely been seen in the past decade,” editor of Forbes China Zhou Jiangong told a news conference.
Wu Yajun, who runs property giant Longfor, is the country’s richest woman, with a fortune of US$6.2 billion. She is also one of five property magnates in the top 10, despite government controls on the sector aimed at curbing speculation.
In a country that has the largest online population in the world, it is perhaps not surprising that two internet billionaires made the top ten.
Robin Li, co-founder of China’s top search engine Baidu, held on to second place, despite a slide in his company’s stock price, with wealth of US$8.1 billion.
And Ma Huateng, the owner of Tencent, which operates popular instant messaging and microblog services, took fourth spot with US$6.4 billion.
Wang Jianlin, of property developer Wanda, is at number three with US$8 billion.
China’s economy recorded annual growth of 7.6 per cent in the second quarter this year, its worst performance in three years. The government will next week announce third-quarter performance.
The world’s second-largest economy has been rocked by Europe’s debt crisis and the weak US recovery, prompting Beijing to cut interest rates and ramp up infrastructure spending to spur growth.