China's richest see their wealth double

08:12, November 06, 2009      

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SHANGHAI: The Midas touch of US investment guru Warren Buffett helped energize the bank account of Shenzhen battery and electric car magnate Wang Chuanfu in the latest China rich list in Forbes Magazine, vaulting the entrepreneur 22 places up the rankings.

In addition to being the biggest climber and the new number one, Wang, a native of Anhui province, was the biggest gainer in terms of dollars. His personal net worth rose to $5.8 billion from $1.06 billion a year earlier.

His company, BYD, got a boost from Buffett's investment in September 2008, resulting in a six-fold increase in its share price in 2009.

Many of the entrepreneurs on the list benefited from the buoyant Chinese stock market, which has risen by almost 74 percent this year.

The stock market boom helped ensure the combined wealth of the top 40 individuals on the list, 35 men and five women, doubled to $106 billion from a year earlier.

Liu Yongxing, last year's richest person, slipped to second, despite a $2.5 billion growth in his wealth, which now stands at $5.5 billion.

Liu and his three brothers capitalized on China's economic reforms to build one of the country's most successful feed businesses before they parted ways in 1999. Liu's privately held East Hope Group focuses on heavy industry.

Zong Qinghou, owner of beverage maker Wahaha Group, is in third place. His net worth rose to $4.8 billion from last year's $1.3 billion. His company had a strong year, settling a legal dispute with Danone in September that saw Wahaha buy out the French company's interests.

"The gain in their personal fortunes stood in sharp contrast with the losses sustained by billionaires in other parts of the world, reflecting the rise of China and the government's efforts to keep domestic demand strong," said Russell Flannery, the magazine's senior editor and compiler of the Forbes Asia China Rich List.

Of the 40 wealthiest, eight are new names while five made a return after slipping off the listing in recent years.

The average age of the 40 is 49 and six are 40 and under.

This year, to get on the list, people needed at least $1.45 billion - a sharp rise from the $790 million needed to chart last year.

Among the eight new names, most were big winners on the stock market. They include the highest-ranked newcomer, Liu Zhongtian, who, ranked eighth, has $3.79 billion. He earned $1.3 billion in April from an initial public offering from his aluminum producing company, China Zhongwang.

Zhang Zhirong is at 18 with $2.5 billion. Her company, Glorious Property Holdings, secured a stock exchange listing in October.

As one of a handful of self-made female billionaires, Zhang returned to the top 40 after a year's absence. Last year, her company saw rising domestic demand, improved overseas sales and an easing of investor concerns about cash flow.

Thirteen people who were on the list last year did not make the cut this time. Among them was Huang Guangyu, founder of electrical goods retailer Gome, who is under investigation for alleged stock market manipulation.

Meanwhile, Forbes China - the Chinese-language edition of Forbes - published its annual list of China's 400 richest. The magazine contrasted the fortunes of China's richest 400 to the richest 400 people in the US, noting the impact of the Chinese government's economic stimulus program.

The publication also noted the importance of the entrepreneurs on the job market.
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