Huge share rally propels Evergrande Group chairman to top of Forbes’ China rich list

Forbes 2017 ranking of the 400 richest people and families in China illustrates how the technology industry has become an important wealth generator

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 November, 2017, 3:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 November, 2017, 4:53pm

A ninefold profit increase and a surging share price for property developer China Evergrande Group helped boost its chairman, Hui Ka-yan, into the No 1 spot on Forbes China Rich List for 2017.

But entrepreneurs involved in social media, fintech, e-commerce and hybrid vehicle technologies displaced the property sector as the biggest generator of wealth in the top 10.

Hui’s net worth surged to US$42.5 billion from US$9.8 billion last year, as surging profits from residential and office projects helped the developer’s shares rocket up 469 per cent during the past year.

Forbes “China Rich List” ranks 400 richest people and families in China.

Jockeying for the second and third spots on the list was a close race between Tencent Holdings chairman and chief executive Pony Ma Huateng, at US$39 billion, and Alibaba Group Holding executive chairman Jack Ma Yun, at US$38.6 billion.

The successful listing of China Literature, Tencent’s e-book publishing unit, which leapt 86 per cent during debut trade on November 8, likely did little to help Pony Ma’s wealth ranking, owing to an unfortunate cut-off in the data calculations. Forbes said it compiled its list based on data for the 12-month period ended October.

“Tencent Holdings’ growth in games, fintech and other businesses centred around WeChat, its messaging app boasting nearly 1 billion users,” Forbes said in a release, noting that Pony Ma has become the richest tech billionaire in Asia after a 60 per cent rise in net worth during the year.

Meanwhile, Alibaba’s increased investment in online retailer Lazada Group was a factor in helping Jack Ma’s net worth grow by more than a third from 2016.

Among other industry leaders, Li Shufu, chairman of Geely Group and owner of Volvo and Lotus, saw his net worth triple to US$16.5 billion. In 2016, Li ranked 30th with a net worth of US$5.2 billion.

Geely is looking at delivering the group’s first flying car by 2019. Earlier this week, Geely completed the acquisition of Boston-based start-up Terrafugia, a company founded in 2006 by five MIT graduates.

Geely buys US start-up Terrafugia and promises a flying car by 2019

Wang Chuanfu, CEO of electric vehicle maker BYD Co, saw his wealth grow to US$5.6 billion from US$4.95 billion in 2016, although his ranking dropped five places to 39th. Forbes said the increase of his wealth was helped by investments in monorail systems and electric buses, as BYD’s Hong Kong share price was up 40 per cent this year.

In a major reversal of fortune, Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, fell to fourth, down from No 1 last year, as his personal net worth shrunk to US$25.2 billion.

Wang’s business empire has undergone a major restructuring involving asset sales, and lower valuations for his US movie chain AMC.

Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.