China's richest man Wang Jianlin doubled fortune to S$41.7b in 12 months: Forbes

Wang Jianlin, China's richest man, saw his wealth rocket from US$13.2 billion (S$18.4 billion) to US$30 billion in Forbes' 2015 China Rich List.
Wang Jianlin, China's richest man, saw his wealth rocket from US$13.2 billion (S$18.4 billion) to US$30 billion in Forbes' 2015 China Rich List. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - China's richest man saw his fortune balloon by nearly US$17 billion (S$23.7 billion) - a sum larger than the GDP of Iceland - in the past year, business magazine Forbes said on Monday (Oct 26).

Mr Wang Jianlin, founder of real estate and entertainment conglomerate Wanda Group, saw his wealth rocket from US$13.2 billion to US$30 billion in the publisher's 2015 China Rich List.

The windfall, which came despite sluggish growth in the world's second-largest economy, was driven by the flotations of two of his company's subsidiaries.

Market forces and creative abilities were crucial to building major businesses in China, Mr Wang said, rather than personal connections.

"It's good to have money," he said in a brief appearance at the announcement of the ranking. "The majority of people with money, especially extraordinarily rich people, are good people."

At his average rate of accumulation last year he would have become more than US$200,000 wealthier during his seven minutes on the stage.

Mr Wang is known outside China for a string of overseas acquisitions including the organiser of Ironman extreme endurance contests, Swiss sports marketing group Infront, and a stake in Spanish football club Atletico Madrid.

He burst into the spotlight in 2012 by buying US cinema chain AMC Entertainment for US$2.6 billion.

He leapt from fourth to first in the Forbes list, one of several charting China's most affluent people.

He unseated Mr Jack Ma, founder of tech giant Alibaba, who dropped to second place with US$21.8 billion as his firm's share price slumped in New York.

The 100 richest people in China are worth US$450 billion, Forbes said, up nearly 20 per cent in a year - far faster than current GDP growth of 6.9 per cent and despite a rout on Chinese stock markets.

Six out of ten of China's richest are in the technology sector, including Mr Ma Huateng of Internet titan Tencent (third), Mr Lei Jun of Xiaomi (fourth), and Mr Robin Li of Chinese search engine Baidu, who slipped four spots this year from second to sixth.

"China's economy is going through a period of structural change," said Forbes senior editor and list compiler Russell Flannery, adding that the richest had found "new opportunities tied to that transition".