WASHINGTON – Tumbling stocks and a falling renminbi, amid credit and trade worries, knocked down the fortunes of China’s richest. The net worths of more than three fourths of last year’s top 400 fell, dropping 93 out of the ranks entirely. Of those who remained, 229 are less flush than a year ago, and nearly one third are off 20 percent or more.
The year’s biggest loser in dollar terms was last year’s No. 1, Hui Ka Yan, whose net worth fell by US$11,7 billion or 28 percent. The real estate magnate slipped to No. 3, swapping places with Jack Ma, the charismatic chairman of internet heavyweight Alibaba. Ma, who is worth US$34,6 billion, returns to No. 1 for the first time since 2014, despite having US$4 billion less than a year ago. Tencent’s Ma Huateng (also known as Pony Ma) holds onto the No. 2 spot despite a US$6,2 billion drop. Wang Wei of S.F. Holding, known as the Fedex of China, was the second-biggest loser, down US$7,4 billion or 33 percent.
Another notable casualty of the equities selloff is Richard Liu, the founder of e-commerce outfit JD.com, whose investors include Tencent and Walmart. His net worth sank 34%. JD.com has lost half its value since its peak in January, and its shares have fallen by one fourth since the end of August, when Liu was arrested in Minnesota for alleged sexual misconduct. He was released the next day, hasn’t been charged and is back in China. JD.com said the accusations were false.
Despite the weakness in some internet fortunes, two in the broader tech and e-commerce sector were among the brightest spots on the list. Wang Xing climbed to $5.1 billion from $4.05 billion a year ago on a Hong Kong IPO in September by the group-buying and meal-ordering app he leads, Meituan. Likewise, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun’s fortune rose to $11.9 billion from $6.8 billion a year ago after a so-so July IPO; the smartphone maker recently sported a market capitalization of $35 billion, enough for five of its shareholders to make the cut, three of them new. Altogether there were 12 tech newcomers including Colin Huang, the founder of e-commerce site Pinduoduo, which went public on Nasdaq over the summer.
Tycoons of pharmaceutical and healthcare companies made a strong showing this year as an aging China spends more to take care of itself. Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine CEO Sun Piaoyang topped this group with $10.4 billion he shares with his wife. There are now 43 rich listers with healthcare fortunes, three more than a year ago.
While nearly all industries felt drops in total wealth, manufacturing, long the biggest source of fortunes in China, got hit a bit harder as the number of listees from that sector fell to 72 from 79 and their average net worth dropped to US$1,8 billion from US$2,1 billion. In 2017 all 400 list members were worth US$1 billion or more; this year the cutoff to make the list dropped to US$840 million, and just 344 of the 400 are billionaires.
Assets were calculated using stock prices and exchange rates as of October 12. Some estimates include assets owned by family members. Collateralized shares are discounted. Forbes