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Rich defy economic slowdown (2)

By Shi Jing  (China Daily)

13:27, September 25, 2012

Shi Zhengrong, founder and chairman of the solar company Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd, for example, saw his personal wealth drop from last year's $1.1 billion to $470 million as its company's share price collapsed by 90 percent.

"Solar is having a hard time mainly due to export problems.

"For textile companies, part of the problem comes from management issues. They have very high levels of stock, which they haven't been able to sell. Two and three years ago, some of these textile companies were overvalued and those have fallen a lot since," said Hoogewerf.

EU-China trade relations have been buffeted recently by the European Commission's decision to start an investigation into Chinese solar panel manufacturers, which could damage Chinese companies further.

Meanwhile, statistics from the General Administration of Customs showed the country exported garment and textile products worth $24.6 billion in August, down 3.35 percent from the previous year.

Property, meanwhile, has lost its spot to manufacturing as the top source of wealth for the first time since the first Hurun Report in 1999, when half of the list had property as their main source of wealth.

Manufacturing now accounts for 20.5 percent of the individuals on the list.

"It is absolutely a signal of the economic downturn. Manufacturing has not gone up so much. But property has come down, which means that the Chinese economy has become more diversified, which is probably good," said Hoogewerf.

"But the general trend of property going down has been going on for about 14 years, and it's partly down to consolidation in the sector.

"We are getting fewer people eating more and more of the pie and, for smaller operators, it is becoming more difficult to grow fast. The companies on the list are the more mature ones, and so I view it as a sort of filtering out of the less mature companies," he said.

Although personal wealth has shrunk to a large extent, the Chinese super rich are still bravely exploring international markets.

Liang Wengen, who topped last year's list, saw his ranking drop to fifth due to a drop in the share price of his heavy machinery company Sany Heavy Industries after it bought a 90 percent share of Putzmeister, the German machinery manufacturer, for $400 million.

In July, Xinjiang Hualing Industry and Trade (Group) Co Ltd acquired a 90 percent of stake in the Georgian JSC Basisbank, becoming the first Chinese private enterprise to acquire a commercial bank overseas, and the company president, Mi Enhua, said it was planning on investing a further $450 million into the country.

"Chinese entrepreneurs are becoming more international, and international companies are rolling out the red carpet for them. I think that by 2015, you will be seeing a lot of Chinese companies making such international acquisitions," said Hoogewerf.

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