March 7, 2012

CHINA: Drinks tycoon sparkles on list of the world's wealthy

BEIJING, China / Shanghai Daily / Feature / March 7, 2012

By Lu Nengneng 

Zong Qinghou. File Photo October 2010 courtesy: Chine Informations
THE 67-year-old founder of a soft drinks company was yesterday named as the richest person on the Chinese mainland. 

According to the Hurun Global Rich List 2012, Zong Qinghou, CEO of Hangzhou-based Wahaha, is worth US$10.5 billion. Zong replaces heavy machinery mogul Liang Wengen, 55, founder of the Sany Group, as the mainland's wealthiest person.

The beverage tycoon ranks 78th on a list topped by Carlos Slim, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, and is the only mainlander to have amassed a fortune of more than US$10 billion.

The Hurun Research Institute's list of those worth more than US$10 billion comprises 83 individuals with an average age of 66 and an average wealth of US$18 billion.

Besides Zong, the five other Chinese worth more than US$10 billion are all from Hong Kong, led by real estate and ports magnate Li Ka-shing, 84, who ranks 13th globally with US$24 billion.

His personal wealth shrunk a little following an 8 percent slump in the Hong Kong stock market. In contrast, Cheng Yu-tung, 87, ranking 49th, saw his fortune soar to US$14 billion after his self-founded jewelry brand, Chow Tai Fook, went public on the Hong Kong stock exchange last year.

The other Chinese billionaires worth more than US$10 billion are all property tycoons - brothers Thomas, 61, and Raymond Kwok, 60, ranking 25th with US$19.5 billion, and Lee Shau Kee, 85, ranking 32nd with US$18.5 billion. Real estate is the main source of wealth for China's billionaires, according to Hurun, but the sector ranks just seventh globally and contributes a mere 7 percent of the total wealth of the whole list.

Hurun said the finance and investment industry produced 18 percent of billionaires' wealth, the most among all sectors, followed by information technology businesses with 13 percent.

Slim, 73, a Mexican telecoms giant with extensive holdings in mining and banking, sits top of the list with a US$55 billion fortune.

Next comes Microsoft founder Gates, 57, who is still worth US$50 billion after selling shares in the company to fund his charitable work.

Investing magnate Buffet, 82, is third on the list with US$48 billion despite an 8 percent slump in the value of his investment arm Berkshire Hathaway over the past year.

Two-thirds of the billionaires on the list are self-made while a third became rich through inheritance, including all the 10 women listed.

The United States still holds the lion's share of the wealthy with 27 people worth more than US$10 billion living there. Russia has 10 and Germany 7. China and India tie for fifth place.

"It won't be long before entrepreneurs from countries like China and India become more dominant," Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun's chairman, said. 

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