China adds over 200 billionaires on stock market boom

A board showing the Hang Seng Index. The past year saw the biggest wealth increase of the past decade due to booming stock markets.
A board showing the Hang Seng Index. The past year saw the biggest wealth increase of the past decade due to booming stock markets.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING • More than 200 billionaires were created in China last year as booming stock markets and a flood of new listings offset the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a global tally released on Tuesday.

The size of China's exclusive billionaires club has almost doubled in the past five years as the world's No. 2 economy continued to outpace most others, and its ability to mostly avoid the worst of the coronavirus meant it was one of the few to expand last year.

The Hurun Global Rich List showed 259 people breaking into the billion-dollar bracket - more than the rest of the world combined - taking China's total to 1,058, the first country to break the 1,000 mark.

In comparison, the United States - the second-best performer - saw 70 new billionaires created, taking its total to 696.

Leading the Chinese pack was Mr Zhong Shanshan of bottled water giant Nongfu, who entered the list for the first time with a US$85 billion (S$113 billion) fortune, putting him at No. 1 in Asia and into Hurun's global top 10. The former construction worker made his cash following a US$1.1 billion initial public offering in Hong Kong last year.

On the other hand, a clampdown on e-commerce giant Alibaba saw tycoon Jack Ma fall down the pecking order. The one-time darling of China's entrepreneurs has come under pressure from regulators, who have reigned in Alibaba and its fintech arm Ant Group on anti-trust issues.

Three individuals globally added more than US$50 billion in a single year, the survey found: Tesla chief Elon Musk, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Mr Colin Huang of Pinduoduo, one of China's fastest-growing e-commerce players.

Overall, China continues to lead the world's wealth creation, said Hurun's report, adding 490 new billionaires in the past five years, compared with the 160 added in the US.

Hurun Report chairman Rupert Hoogewerf said that even with the pandemic chaos, the past year saw the biggest wealth increase of the past decade due to new listings and booming stock markets.

"Asia has, for the first time in perhaps hundreds of years, more billionaires than the rest of the world combined," he added.

The report also flagged a shift in Hong Kong, pointing out that the city's entrepreneurs are now being "dwarfed" by their counterparts in the mainland - only three Hong Kong tycoons make it into the China top 50.

Six of the world's top 10 cities with the highest concentration of billionaires are now in China, with Beijing at the top for the sixth year running.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2021, with the headline 'China adds over 200 billionaires on stock market boom'. Subscribe