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It's been a bumper year for China's super rich, never mind the growing gloom and doom over the global economy. The Shanghai-based Hurun Research Institute's 2011 rich list, which tallies up China's 1,000 richest men and women, has for the first time hit a record 271 billionaires. The cut-off to make this annual list has doubled from two years ago to $310 million.
On the whole, China's 1,000 richest people have an average wealth of $924 million. The country is now also home to about one million people with a personal wealth of $1.5 million or more, according to the Hurun Report. In comparison, the U.S. had over three million people with $1 million or more in investible assets in 2010, according to a report from Merrill Lynch and Capgemini.
China’s millionaires have been growing at a double-digit pace — up nearly 10 percent from last year. The construction boom, together with rapid urbanization has been the biggest driver of wealth in the world's second-largest economy. 29 of the top 50 richest people on this list count on property as one of their main source of wealth. The rich are also politically well connected with almost 30 percent of the top 50 being members of China's government advisory body — the National Party Council (CPPCC).
We've put together a list of the top 10 richest people in China based on the Hurun, which began its annual rich list 13 years ago. The wealth calculations are based on figures as of August 15, 2011.
Click ahead to find out who are China’s top billionaires and which companies they run.
By: Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani(Posted: Sept. 16, 2011)
Fortune: $5.6 billion
Company: Country Garden
Yang Huiyan (inset) is the second wealthiest woman in mainland China and the youngest billionaire on the top 10 list.
The 30-year-old inherited almost all of her wealth from her father Yang Guoqiang (pictured), a farmer turned property developer, when he transferred his 70 percent stake in the company he founded — Country Garden — to Huiyan in 2007 before its Hong Kong IPO. The initial public offering raised about $1.65 billion for the real estate development firm, which made billionaires of its five shareholders. Huiyan was named Asia’s richest woman in the same year by Forbes Magazine with a net worth of $16 billion.
The heiress is a graduate of Ohio State University and married the son of a top Chinese official in 2007. Huiyan’s father remains the chairman of Country Garden, which is based in the South China Sea coastal province of Guangdong.
The company was founded in 1997, and builds high-end residential properties. Investing in China’s rapidly developing real estate sector has proved to be a lucrative venture for the country’s super rich. At least five of the top 10 richest people in China are involved in the property sector.
Fortune: $6.3 billion
Company: Midea Group
He Xiangjian is the founder and chairman of Midea Group — China’s second largest publicly traded appliance maker.
Making his first appearance in the top 10 list, He started a workshop that made small plastic bottle lids in 1968 and went on to found Midea in 1980. The household goods manufacturer, and retail empire now has over 13,000 stores across China. The firm, based in Guangdong, employs up to 130,000 people and has three overseas production bases in Vietnam, Belarus and Egypt. Midea’s revenue grew to $9.7 billion in the first half of 2011.
Despite its booming success, the firm’s manufacturing standards have recently been put into question. Earlier this month, media reports surfaced that Midea along with other industry leaders used industrial lubricant in their manufacturing instead of lubricant that is meant for food processors and juicers. The lubricant was reportedly used to reduce costs, and contains hazardous carcinogenic material. However, Midea employees have publicly denied the reports and have been quoted as saying that the firm’s products comply with national standards.
Fortune: $6.4 billion
Company: East Hope Group
Liu Yongxing is the founder of the East Hope Group, China’s largest animal feed producer.
Liu and his three brothers started their business in 1982 with only $120 in savings, but split up in 1995 with Liu further expanding into aluminum production. Today his company, which has expanded rapidly amid rising demand for meat from China’s growing middle class, produces 100 types of animal feed. The Shanghai-based firm’s Inner Mongolia facility is also one of the largest aluminum ingot plants in Asia.
But, East Hope’s expansion plans have run into trouble with Chinese regulators. In May, the ministry of environmental protection ordered the group’s alumina refinery in Henan province to shut down production after the firm added an extra 400,000 tons to its capacity without prior approval.
Fortune: $6.6 billion
Company: Longfor Properties
Wu Yajun is the wealthiest woman in China and also the richest self-made woman in the world currently, according to the Hurun Report.
Wu’s personal fortune of $6.6 billion increased 50 percent from the 2010 estimate of $4.4 billion. This year also marks Wu’s 10th appearance on China’s rich list.
A mechanical engineer, Wu also worked as a journalist for China Shirong News Agency before she founded Chongqing Zhongjianke Real Estate in 1995 with her husband. The company was later renamed Longfor Properties. Wu is the chairman of the real estate development firm, in which her family holds a 76 percent stake. Longfor’s business has now expanded to 10 cities in China.
Wu’s wealth ballooned in 2009 to $4 billion when the company made its debut on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Feeding into China’s booming property demand, Longfor launched over 1,000 villas worth $312 million in the eastern city of Yantai in July this year, which according to the company, were all sold out within a week. The firm’s contracted sales rose over 31 percent in July from a year earlier to $406 million.
Fortune: $7.1 billion
Company: Dalian Wanda Group
Wang Jianlin is the chairman of one of Asia’s largest property developers, the Dalian Wanda Group.
The firm, founded in 1988, has over 7 million square meters of leased commercial real estate in 32 Chinese cities. It also owns over 300 movie theatres and eight five-star hotels. The group’s revenue jumped nearly 70 percent from a year earlier to $9.66 billion in the first six months of the year. The company expects its revenue to exceed $15.6 billion in 2011.
Wang has also been an active political figure in China since 1996 and holds positions in several Communist party organizations. Keen to push China on to the world soccer stage, Wang made headlines in July when he signed a $77 million deal with the Chinese Football Association to revitalize the sport over the next three years. Wang also hopes to attract a world-class foreign coach to join the Chinese national team with a three-year contract worth $6.25 million.
Fortune: $7.2 billion
Company: Evergrande Real Estate Group
Property mogul Xu Jiayin makes his fifth appearance in the rich list, up 20 places from 2010. Xu is the chairman of Evergrande Real Estate Group, China’s second-largest property developer by sales.
Xu founded Evergrande, formerly known as Hengda, in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in 1996. The firm now has projects in over 100 cities in the country. Foreign shareholders Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank and Temasek Holdings paid $400 million for an 8 percent stake in the company in 2007. A year later, Evergrande went on to raise $722 million in its Hong Kong IPO.
Evergrande launched 33 new commercial real estate developments in the first six months of this year, and plans to launch another 29 in the second half. The firm saw its net profit jump 133 percent to $910 million in the first half of 2011 compared with the same period last year.
Owner of a Chinese professional soccer club, Xu attracted international attention this year when his soccer team Guangzhou Evergrande pulled off one of the biggest transfers in the country’s football history. Xu’s team signed Argentine playmaker Dario Conca for a record $10 million from the Brazilian champions Fluminense of Rio de Janeiro. Conca was the 2010 player of the year in Brazil.
Fortune: $7.8 billion
Company: Reignwood Group
Yan Bin, also known by his Thai name Chanchai Ruayrungruang, is the second drink maker among the top five richest people in China. The business tycoon has made the top five list for the past decade, but last year he tied for fifth with online search engine Baidu’s founder Robin Li Yanhong.
Yan founded the Reignwood Group in 1984 — a business conglomerate with interests in a range of consumer discretionary products and services like energy drinks, golf courses, financial services, and art and culture. Yan founded the company in Thailand, and set up a Beijing office in 1990. In 1995, the firm gained rights to be the sole retailer of Austrian energy drink Red Bull in China, leading to burgeoning sales and wealth for Yan. Red Bull dominates the energy drinks market in China, with sales of up to $800 million in 2010. China is also world’s second-largest market for energy drinks, according to consultancy firm Zenith International.
Apart from Red Bull, Yan owns one of China’s best-known golf courses, the Beijing Reignwood Golf Club. In April, his firm signed a five-year $25 million sponsorship contract with the world’s No. 1 female golfer, Taiwanese Tseng Yani.
Fortune: $8.8 billion
Robin Li Yanhong is the youngest self-made billionaire in the Hurun top 10 rich list.
The 43-year-old co-founded China’s biggest internet company by market value, Baidu, with Eric Xu in 2000 after developing software for U.S. tech firms IDD and Infoseek.
Baidu operates China’s number one online search engine as well as a slew of other websites. Since the departure of Google from the Chinese market in 2010, Baidu fields more than 70 percent of the country’s search engine traffic.
Building on its success, Baidu was the first Chinese company to be listed on the Nasdaq 100 Index in 2007. Robin Li, who serves as CEO and chairman of Baidu, saw his wealth double in 2010 to $5.3 billion, and it's gone up another 66 percent to $8.8 billion this year.
Turning its focus to China’s growing demand for mobile phones, Baidu launched a wireless operating system called Yi in August. Dell, the world’s second-largest personal computer maker, has already agreed to produce smartphones using Baidu’s software for users in China.
Fortune: $10.7 billion
Company: Hangzhou Wahaha Group
Last year’s No. 1, “Drinks King” Zong Qinghou, fell to second place this year as his wealth shrunk from $12 billion in 2010 to $10.7 billion in 2011.
Zong is the chairman and CEO of the Hangzhou Wahaha Group — China’s largest beverage producer. Zong founded the company as an elementary school shop in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou in 1987 with a loan of $22,000. The firm now has about 200 subsidiary companies, which also include children’s clothing, and 40 manufacturing bases across China.
Wahaha has a 15 percent market share of China’s soft drinks market and sales for its children’s clothing line top nearly $1 billion a year. In 2010, group sales touched $8.6 billion. Zong announced earlier this year that the firm would build 100 hypermarkets in China over the next few years to compete with retail giants Wal-Mart and Carrefour.
A key Chinese political figure and a member of the National People’s Congress since 2002, Zong is no stranger to controversy. The tycoon made headlines in 2009 when his company ended its partnership with French food group Danone. The high-profile legal brawl led to mediation by the Chinese and French governments and saw Danone sell its 51 percent stake in its China joint venture to Wahaha. In 2008, Zong was also reportedly investigated for evading $42.9 million in taxes.
Fortune: $11 billion
Company: Sany Group
Liang Wengen is the chairman of Sany Group — one of China’s largest construction equipment manufacturers.
Liang and three other partners founded Sany in 1989 as a small welding materials factory in the Chinese province of Hunan. Since then, the conglomerate has grown into a global operation with five industrial parks in China, four manufacturing bases in the U.S., Germany, India and Brazil, and 24 sales firms around the world.
Sany’s concrete pumps were used to build the Three Gorges Dam in China. Benefiting from China’s push towards urbanization, the group’s revenue reached $7.8 billion in 2010. Liang has a 58.2 percent stake in Sany.
The group’s subsidiary Sany Heavy Industry has plans to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange this October, with a $3 billion IPO.