China property

Evergrande’s Hui Ka-yan topples China’s top two tech tycoons to become country’s richest man – for a day

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 September, 2017, 5:25pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 September, 2017, 5:25pm

Hui Ka-yan, 58, chairman of property developer China Evergrande, became China’s richest man – unseating Tencent’s Ma Huateng and Alibaba’s Jack Ma Yun – for a day.

The Henan-born Hui’s wealth advance has been driven by an extraordinary rally in Hong Kong-listed Evergrande’s share price. The country’s largest home builder by sales has seen its shares soar over 480 per cent so far this year, the biggest winner among all the mainland China property stocks listed in Hong Kong.

Evergrande surged another 6 per cent on Monday morning to a record market value of 370 billion yuan (US$56.5 billion), adding an extra US$1.8 billion to Hui’s wealth.

As of midday Monday, Hui’s net worth reached US$39.5 billion based on the real time rankings published online by Forbes, enough to temporarily overtake Tencent’s Ma and Alibaba’s Ma, who were worth US$38.7 billion and US$38.7 billion respectively. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Hui was also ranked the 15th richest person in the world, just behind Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

However, by the close of trading Hui’s net worth had dropped back to US$38.4 billion when Evergrande's stock weakened in late trading.

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The rally comes amid the heavily indebted developer’s pledge to reduce its leverage and after it posted a 832 per cent jump in first-half earnings.

Founded in 2006 by Hui, Guangzhou-based Evergrande has expanded its footprint to more than 200 Chinese cities with over 700 residential projects.

Record property sales and industry consolidation have boosted the shares of some of China’s major developers to new highs this year, which in turn has lifted the personal fortunes of the tycoons that own them.

Yang Huiyan, 35, Asia’s richest woman who is majority shareholder of Guangdong developer Country Garden, was another big winner. By the close of trading Monday she had vaulted to No 5 spot in China’s rich list with a net wealth of US$23.2 billion, up from 15th spot in 2016, when her average net worth was US$7 billion.

Yang’s father, the founder of Country Garden – one of the top three Chinese home builders – transferred his stock to her in 2007. Yang currently owns 55 per cent of Hong Kong-listed Country Garden. The developer’s share price has more than tripled from the beginning of the year, further consolidating her position as Asia’s richest woman.

Jack Ma and property and film mogul Wang Jianlin, who controls Dalian Wanda Group, had been in a neck-and-neck battle for the title of China’s richest man over the past two years. But Wang’s fortunes faded in recent months after his business empire came under heightened scrutiny by Chinese authorities intent on curbing Wanda’s debt-fuelled overseas expansion.

Wang, 62, has dropped to fourth richest man in China with a US$30.5 billion fortune after Wanda disposed of most of its hotels and theme parks for US$9.5 billion to repay debt, and as a result of the long-term trading suspension of Wanda Film.