China economy

China’s richest 2,130 people have as much money as the world’s fifth-largest economy

Evergrande Group chairman Xu Jiayin leaps to top of China’s rich list, displacing Wanda Group’s Wang Jianlin

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 October, 2017, 1:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 October, 2017, 11:27pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping may have launched a war on poverty in China, but the wealth effects of the nation’s growth have had profound effects among the upper echelon, as a group of 2,130 individuals now have fortunes equivalent to the economy of the UK, according to the Hurun Report’s 2017 rich list.

At least 74 individuals joined the group with fortunes of more than US$300 million in this year’s list, adding to the 2,056 who made last year’s list, bringing their combined assets to US$2.6 trillion, roughly the same size as the GDP of the UK, the world’s fifth largest economy.

There was also substantial change at the top of the rich list.

Xu Jiayin, chairman of real estate developer Evergrande Group, has emerged as China’s richest man with assets worth US$43 billion.

Last year’s leader, Wang Jianlin, dropped to fifth after declines in the share price of his embattled Wanda Group saw his family’s net worth slump 28 per cent to US$23 billion.

“Overall, the Hurun Rich List has grown faster than any year since 2007, with the possible exception of 2015,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun Report chairman and chief researcher.

Evergrande is China’s largest property group by sales, and since the start of this year, the price of its shares in Hong Kong has risen by 465 per cent.

Pony Ma Huateng, founder and chief executive of Tencent took the No 2 spot on the rich list with a net worth of US$37 billion, overtaking Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma at US$30 billion, who ranked third.

Fourth on the list, and also China’s richest woman, Yang Huiyan, vice-chairman and the largest shareholder of real estate developer Country Garden, saw her wealth triple to US$24 billion.

Aside from real estate, technology names continued to dominate the wealth rankings with Baidu’s Robin Li, and NetEase’s Ding Lei both making the top 10.

“China’s entrepreneurs have come a long way. Back in 1999, when I put out the first list, I managed to rank 50 people. Today we have almost that number just from Alibaba,” said Hoogewerf.

Of the 2,130 individuals with assets above US$300 million, 43 came from Alibaba and its affiliate Ant Financial.

Meanwhile, a number of individuals who made last year’s rich list have fallen out of favour with Chinese authorities.

Among them, Xiao Jianhua, who disappeared from Hong Kong’s Four Season’s hotel in January, makes the 2017 list with a net worth of US$4.5 billion. And Guo Wengui, the former real estate tycoon now living in New York, has dropped off.

Others have slipped down the list for more prosaic reasons. Jia Yueting of LeEco dropped to 1,978th place from 31st, after supply chain and cash flow problems resulted in his wealth shrinking by 95 per cent.

The Hurun Report says its calculations were done using financial disclosures and other data accurate as of August 15.

The report noted it had “inevitably missed” some individuals who deserved to be included. Among these individuals, the report pointed to successful entrepreneurs such as Zhang Ruimin of Haier, Peter Ma Mingzhi of PingAn, Sun Yafang of Huawei.

“For every one we have found, we estimate there to be two that we have missed,” Hoogewerf said.