China has a new richest man, according to the annual Hurun rich list of the country’s top movers and shakers.
Xu Jiayin, the chairman of developer China Evergrande Group, has seized top spot – beating out more familiar faces such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s Jack Ma and rival property magnate Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda Group.
Xu’s reported $43 billion wealth – a gain of around $30 billion against last year – comes on the back of a surge in Evergrande’s shares, up over 450 percent so far this year amid plans to cut debt and focus on profit over scale.
The Hurun Report, established in 1999, is the leading China-based organization ranking the wealth of the country’s rich and famous, and its list gives a temperature check on the winners and losers in China.
Growth in China stabilized this year, but while the world’s second largest economy averted a hard landing, some major corporations have buckled under the weight of their debt or been sanctioned by authorities over risky investments overseas.
Wanda’s Wang – who took top spot for the last two years – dropped to fifth in the list after Wanda sold off much of the firm’s hotel and theme park assets to rivals in July, after coming under regulatory scrutiny over its high leverage.
Close behind Evergrande’s Xu were China’s top tech titans – Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Tencent Holdings Ltd’s Pony Ma, who has seen his firm’s value rise on the popularity of its WeChat messaging app and its popular online games.
The list also underlined those who have fallen from grace in corporate China.
Jia Yueting, founder of sprawling conglomerate LeEco that once looked to rival both Tesla Inc and Netflix, dropped to 1,978th place from 31st last year.
Yang Kai, chairman of embattled Huishan Dairy – 66th last year – dropped off the list entirely as his firm fights off creditors amid billions of dollars of unpaid debt.
On the up was Wuxi Pharma Tech’s Li Ge and his wife, propelled by China’s push towards drug innovation, Zhang Lei of fast-growing online news portal Toutiao and Li Shufu of carmaker Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd.
“It has been a good year for manufacturing, cars, education, TMT and healthcare,” Hurun founder Rupert Hoogewerf said.
While many of those on the 2,000-strong list were members of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, only a few were delegates at the upcoming five-yearly Party Congress that begins next week.
These included corn magnate Li Denghai, alcohol billionaire Wu Shaoxun and Pan Gang of dairy giant Yili.
The list, with a combined wealth of $2.6 trillion, saw average wealth rising 12.5 percent – faster than broader economic growth – pointing to the growing financial muscle of China’s super-rich elite.