One of world's youngest billionaires surfaces as company value triples

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - One of the youngest billionaires on Earth has emerged in China after his budget airline tripled in value in less than three weeks.

Wang Han has a net worth of US$1.2 billion (S$1.6 billion), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The 27-year-old inherited 27 per cent of Shanghai-based Juneyao Airlines Co. from his father, who died in 2004.

The airline sold shares in an initial public offering May 27 and has risen by the exchange-imposed limit of 10 per cent each day since. China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index has advanced 58 per cent this year, helping to create more than 75 billionaires.

Mr Wang's uncle Wang Junjin, chairman of Juneyao, owns 26 per cent of the carrier. He also controls 14 per cent of department store operator Wuxi Commercial Mansion Grand Orient Co., giving him a US$1.1 billion fortune. Juneyao's rise is set to produce a third billionaire, Wang Junhao, another uncle, as the airline added 10 per cent as of 10:09 a.m. in Shanghai trading.

Aviation billionaires are rare in China because the low returns make it difficult to make money in the industry, according to Li Xiaolu, an industrial analyst at Capital Securities Corp. in Shanghai.

"Juneyao is a new stock which investors favour," Mr Li said. "It may still jump further."

The company's IPO came after low-cost carrier Spring Airlines Co. surged more than sevenfold since its January listing. Spring's Chairman Wang Zhenghua became a billionaire about two weeks after its trading debut.

Juneyao Air jumped by the 10 per cent cap to a record 41.76 yuan at the Shanghai close on Wednesday. That gave the carrier a market capitalisation of 23.7 billion yuan (S$5.1 billion), making it more valuable than Air Canada and Air France-KLM.

Mr Wang Xi, a Juneyao Air investor relations official, declined to comment.