China’s third-richest man is set to get a US$2 billion cash windfall. Hui Ka-yan, chairman of China Evergrande Group, will pocket the money after the property developer and electric-car wannabe declared a record dividend for fiscal 2018. The board proposed a 1.42 yuan per-share payout for the year ended December 31, according to a statement late Sunday. That would total 18.7 billion yuan (US$2.7 billion), and with a 78 per cent stake in the company, Hui will get the lion’s share. Evergrande shares rose 3.3 per cent in morning trading in Hong Kong, paring this year’s decline to 13 per cent. The 61-year-old company founder didn’t take a salary last year, and was paid the equivalent of about US$34,000 in fees. However, he’s worth US$27.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Evergrande has poured billions of dollars into acquisitions as Hui pursues an ambition to make the company the world’s biggest maker of electric cars in the next three to five years. The cash burning foray into electric-cars comes as Evergrande’s net debt-to-equity ratio hovers around 153 per cent, one of the highest among Chinese developers. Evergrande’s dividend “is set to further aggravate its cash crunch. The confluence of weak first-half sales, falling cash collections, and cash burn from its electric-vehicle foray means Evergrande will struggle to shake off enough net debt to hit its target – 70 per cent of equity – by mid-2020,” Bloomberg Opinion’s banking and real estate analyst Kristy Hung said. So far, Hui doesn’t have much to show for all his grand plans, last month vowing to unveil a debut car by June 2020 – a year later than first promised. Not only does that pit him against Elon Musk’s Tesla, which has been churning out EVs for years, but also all the world’s major carmakers, which are ploughing tens of billions of dollars into EV production and research. Evergrande will also be entering a crowded local field at a time sales are slumping as the government reduces subsidies. The proposed dividend translates to a 50 per cent payout ratio of the developer’s 37.4 billion yuan profit last year, the same since its listing. Shareholders will vote whether to approve the dividend at an extraordinary general meeting Jan. 15. Evergrande had deferred a decision on the 2018 dividend twice since March, partly to comply with Chinese regulatory rules as it pursues a back-door listing on the mainland for its real estate assets. The dividend is expected to be paid on or before February 26, 2020, if it is approved by shareholders. While Evergrande has delayed dividend payments for the past three financial years, it indicated the fiscal 2019 payout will be made after it releases its annual report in March 2020.