Trade war, slowing economy and market rout wipe out billions from China’s 400 richest people on Forbes list

  • The median wealth of China’s 400 richest people shrank by US$300 million in 2018, compared with last year, according to Forbes
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 October, 2018, 1:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 October, 2018, 11:22pm

China’s 400 wealthiest people have lost a combined US$130 billion of their fortunes in the last year, as a worsening trade war with the United States exacerbated a slowing economy and the worst stock market rout in four years.

The nation’s richest people are estimated to be worth a combined US$1.06 trillion, down from the total wealth of US$1.19 trillion , according to Forbes’ 2018 China Rich List. Their median net worth shrank by US$300 million to US$1.4 billion, from US$1.7 billion, according to the list.

“The world has come to associate China with wealth creation, and it is startling to see the extent of wealth destruction this year,” said Russell Flannery, the editor-in-chief of Forbes China.

The bloodbath on Asian equity bourses underscored the wealth destruction, as stock markets from Seoul to Wellington took the cue from New York’s overnight plunge.

Hong Kong’s key Hang Seng Index fell 1 per cent to an 18-month low, while the China Enterprises Index fell 0.5 per cent. China’s stock markets were mixed, as the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5 points while the Shenzhen benchmark fell 0.3 per cent. The Nikkei 225 plummeted 3.7 per cent.

Forbes had to lower its bar for making the China Rich List to US$840 million, as the number of dollar billionaires on the 2018 list fell to 86 per cent, from all 400 last year.

The world has come to associate China with wealth creation, and it is startling to see the extent of wealth destruction this year
Russell Flannery, Forbes China

Tycoons in manufacturing were the hardest hit, in a sign that the trade war - ostensibly to close the US trade gap with China - is beginning to bite at the top.

Real estate fortunes were also wiped out, with China Evergrande Group’s founder and chairman Hui Ka Yan losing 28 per cent, or US$11.7 billion, of his estimated worth to US$30.8 billion, putting him third on the list. The shares of Evergrande, one of China’s largest property developers, have plummeted by 29 per cent this year, touching a 52-week low of HK$18 , amid concerns of its 144 billion yuan (US$21 billion) in outstanding debt.

Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group Holding, the world’s largest e-commerce platform and owner of the South China Morning Post, rose two ranks to become China’s richest man, with his wealth estimated at US$34.6 billion, a decline of US$4 billion from last year.

Pony Ma Huateng, founder of China’s dominant social network operator and mobile games publisher Tencent Holdings, stayed as the second-richest Chinese tycoon, with his estimated wealth shrinking by US$6.2 billion to US$32.8 billion. The Shenzhen-based company’s shares have plunged 33.7 per cent this year.

Wang Wei, founder of the SF Express delivery service, saw his fortune fall by US$7.4 billion. Richard Liu Qiangdong, founder of e-commerce giant JD.com, saw his net worth drop by US$3.2 billion to US$6.2 billion.

It wasn’t entirely gloom and doom among China’s 10 richest men. He Xiangjian, founder and former chairman of China’s largest appliances maker Midea Group, increased his estimated wealth by US$800 million to US$19.5 billion, raising his 2018 ranking by two spots to fifth place.

Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi, saw his wealth rising US$5.1 billion to US$11.9 billion

Old fashioned businesses proved to be resilient. Zhang Yong, co-founder of the popular hotpot restaurant chain Haidilao, joined the list with US$7.7 billion on the strength of an IPO in September. Shi Yonghong, the other founder of Haidilao, was estimated at US$3.65 billion.

Pang Kang, who chairs Foshan Haitian, one of China’s biggest soy sauce suppliers, jumped US$2.8 billion for a 2018 fortune of US$8.8 billion.