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Tech tycoon Jack Ma saw his family's fortune grow by 45 per cent from last year, according to the report. Photo: Bloomberg

Jack Ma leads the pack as Chinese billionaires’ 2020 fortunes grow by the size of Russia’s economy

  • China’s super-rich now own a combined fortune of US$4 trillion, more than the GDP of Germany, the world’s fourth-biggest economy, according to the latest Hurun rich list
  • Ma’s family wealth grows 45 per cent as a stock market boom and tech mega listings lift the fortunes of China’s billionaires by US$1.5 trillion
The Covid-19 pandemic has not stopped Chinese billionaires from getting even richer. A stock market boom and a flurry of new listings has further boosted their fortunes, according to the latest Hurun China Rich List.

The super-rich – with wealth of at least 2 billion yuan (US$300 million) to make the list – added US$1.5 trillion to their collective nest eggs in the past year, equivalent to Russia’s annual economic output.

They now own a combined fortune of US$4 trillion, more than the gross domestic product of Germany, the world’s fourth-biggest economy.

Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, and his family, top the Chinese rich list again, with a net worth of US$58.8 billion, up 45 per cent from last year. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

“The Hurun China Rich List recorded more wealth created this year than the previous five years combined, suggesting that the structure of the economy has evolved, moving away from traditional sectors like manufacturing and real estate, towards the new economy,” Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Hurun Report said in a statement.

Calculations were based on their wealth as of August 28.

A total of 2,303 billionaires made the rich list, which was published on Tuesday morning. Of those, 878 are billionaires in US dollar terms, more than the 700 or so known billionaires in the US, said Hoogewerf.

The coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province last December, wiped out massive amounts of wealth in the first two months of the outbreak as lockdowns and social distancing measures disrupted production and commercial activities.

China’s successful containment of the Covid-19 in the first half of this year helped businesses engineer a V-shaped recovery since June, and new economy companies – technology firms and the like – boomed to record heights on the stock market.

The mainland Chinese economy, the world’s second largest, expanded 4.9 per cent in the third quarter, driven by an uptick in the services sector and consistent strength in trade and industry.

China is now the lone bright spot among the world’s major economies as Covid-19 is still wreaking havoc on US and European businesses.

GDP had contracted 6.8 per cent in the first quarter as the country went into lockdown to contain the outbreak. Second-quarter growth picked up by 3.2 per cent as China became the first to emerge from the lockdown and the economy clawed its way back to life.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index closed at 3,380.28 on August 21, 10.8 per cent higher than the close at the end of last year.

The Nasdaq-style Star Market offered fast tickets to prospective start-ups from chip makers to biotech businesses as a way of bolstering technological innovation amid escalating US-China tensions. It minted at least 13 fresh billionaires in its first year of operations.

Companies also flocked to Hong Kong and New York to raise funds, creating new billionaires.

Zhong Shanshan, 66, of YST, best-known for its bottled water brand Nongfu, surged to third place on the rich list with a net worth of US$53.7 billion.

Zhong Shanshan, the 65-year-old founder and controlling shareholder of Nongfu Spring, finds himself in third place. Photo: Captured from WEIBO

Nongfu raised HK$8.35 billion (US$1.08 billion) in its Hong Kong initial public offering early this year, and the share price surged 85 per cent on its trading debut on September 8.

Fintech behemoth Ant Group, also founded by Jack Ma, is well on its way to launching a dual-listing in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Ant’s IPO is set to smash the record held by Saudi Aramco’s US$29.4 billion IPO last December as the biggest ever share offering.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: China’s super-rich see their fortunes increase by size of Russia’s economy