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China listings create billionaires at record pace


Jack Ma
The story of Jack Ma's fall from official favour helps illustrate how rapidly China has transformed under Xi Jinping. Photo: Reuters

China is minting new billionaires at a record pace despite an economy bruised by the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to booming share prices and a spate of new stock listings, according to a list released on Tuesday.

The Hurun China Rich List 2020 also highlights China’s accelerated shift away from traditional sectors like manufacturing and real estate, towards e-commerce, fintech and other new economy industries.

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Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, retained the top spot for the third year in a row, with his personal wealth jumping 45% to $58.8 billion partly due to the impending mega-listing of fintech giant Ant Group.

Ant is expected to create more mega-rich through what is likely to be the world’s biggest IPO, as it plans to raise an estimated $35 billion through a dual listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The combined wealth of those on the Hurun China list – with an individual wealth cut-off of 2 billion yuan (just over $299 million) – totalled $4 trillion, more than the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of Germany, according to Rupert Hoogewerf, the Hurun Report’s chairman. 

More wealth was created this year than in the previous five years combined, with China’s rich-listers adding $1.5 trillion, roughly half the size of Britain’s GDP.

‘Five new billionaires a week for past year’

Booming stock markets and a flurry of new listings have created five new dollar billionaires in China a week for the past year, Hoogewerf said in a statement.

“The world has never seen this much wealth created in just one year. China’s entrepreneurs have done much better than expected. Despite Covid-19 they have risen to record levels.”

According to a separate estimate by PwC and UBS, only billionaires in the United States possessed greater combined wealth than those in mainland China. 

China has accelerated capital market reforms to aid a virus-hit economy, accelerate economic restructuring and fund a “tech war” with the United States. 

To expedite initial public offerings (IPOs), regulators launched a US-style IPO system on Shanghai’s Nasdaq-style STAR Market and Shenzhen’s ChiNext. Chinese corporate listings in Hong Kong and Nasdaq have also turbocharged the fortunes of company founders. 

Zhong Shanshan, who recently listed his bottled water maker Nongfu Spring Co in Hong Kong, shot straight into the top 3 with $53.7 billion, trailing Tencent founder Pony Ma. 

The wealth of He Xiaopeng surged 80% to $6.6 billion after the listing of his electric vehicle maker Xpeng Motors in New York during the summer.

(Reporting by Samuel Shen and Brenda Goh; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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