The number of billionaires on the mainland fell for the first time in seven years, amid a slump in the property sector and falling stock prices, a group that tracks their fortunes said yesterday. The mainland had 251 people worth US$1 billion or more, 20 fewer than last year, said the Hurun Report. The list records the 1,000 richest people. Topping this year's list, with a fortune of US$12.6 billion, is beverage magnate Zong Qinghou, the founder of Hangzhou Wahaha, who reclaimed the spot he lost last year to Liang Wengen, a co-founder of machinery maker Sany Heavy Industry. Liang fell to fifth. Rupert Hoogewerf, the publisher's chairman and chief researcher, said "some significant wealth bloodletting" could be seen in this year's results as the mainland economy entered a significant slowdown amid the broader global slump. Gross domestic product grew 9.3 per cent last year and hit a three-year low of 7.6 per cent in the three months to June for the sixth consecutive quarter of weaker growth. Weak economic data in the current quarter, including exports and manufacturing, has led some analysts to expect the mainland to record slower growth for a seventh quarter. The report said the property sector was no longer the top source of wealth for the mainland's richest since the survey began in 1999, losing out to manufacturing, which accounted for 20.7 per cent of those on the list. The central government has been pursuing policies to rein in the once red-hot property sector. Despite the decline in the number of billionaires, the report said the figure still showed tremendous overall growth in a short period of time, citing the 15 people the mainland had just six years ago.