China’s Richest 2019: Growing Consumer Appetite Boosts Fortunes Of Nation’s Wealthiest

This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of China’s Richest 2019.

The headlines from China in the past year have been gloomy. Trade friction with the U.S. has risen, while GDP growth in the world’s second-largest economy slowed to a near three-decade low of 6{d11068cee6a5c14bc1230e191cd2ec553067ecb641ed9b4e647acef6cc316fdd}. Happily for the country’s wealthiest, however, there’s more good news than bad among the members of our list of China’s richest.

The total wealth of the 400 members of the China Rich List rose by more than a fifth from a year ago, to $1.29 trillion, as China’s consumers spent more on everything and spent more of it online. More than half the listees saw their fortunes climb in the past year, while a quarter saw their fortunes fall. The minimum net worth needed to make the list this year was $1 billion, back to 2017’s threshold, after dropping in 2018 to $840 million. There were 60 newcomers to the list; returnees made up most of the rest.

Topping the list for a second year is Jack Ma, who recently resigned as chairman of the e-commerce giant he co-founded, Alibaba, to focus on philanthropy. Ma’s fortune rose to $38.2 billion from $34.6 billion a year earlier as New York-listed Alibaba gained on China’s e-commerce boom. Second and third on the list: Tencent CEO Huateng “Pony” Ma, with a fortune worth $36 billion, and Evergrande Group Chairman Hui Ka Yan, worth an estimated $27.7 billion, their ranks are unchanged from last year.

Growing fortunes in online shopping appear throughout the list. Colin Huang, CEO of e-commerce site Pinduoduo, saw his estimated net worth soar to $21.2 billion from $11.25 billion last year as Pinduoduo gained on rival Entrepreneurs who provide services tied to e-commerce also did well: Lai Meisong, CEO of Alibaba-backed express delivery firm ZTO, saw his fortune climb to $4.6 billion from $3.35 billion.

Pharmaceutical and healthcare fortunes are also benefitting as rising incomes enable Chinese to spend more on healthcare. Sun Piaoyang, chairman of Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine, moved up to No. 4 with a fortune of $25.8 billion. He shares that spot with his wife Zhong Huijuan. The two gained on growing business at Sun’s Hengrui as well as a Hong Kong IPO by Zhong-led company Jiangsu Hansoh Pharmaceutical. Li Xiting, chairman of medical equipment supplier Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics, also moved up to about $8.5 billion from $1.8 billion as its shares soared after the company relisted its shares at home in China following its 2016 delisting from the New York Stock Exchange.

Sportswear maker Anta Sports’ Hong Kong-listed shares have more than doubled in the past year, helping propel the fortune of its two leaders—brothers Ding Shizhong and Ding Shijia—up by almost 150{d11068cee6a5c14bc1230e191cd2ec553067ecb641ed9b4e647acef6cc316fdd} to $5.6 and $5.5 billion, respectively. Two Anta executives also landed on the list for the first time: CFO Lai Shixian, a Ding brother-in-law, at $1.4 billion and Wang Wenmo, a family cousin who manages Anta’s apparel operations.

IPOs were another fuel for fortunes. Proving that traditional firms can still create billionaires in China, snack maker Three Squirrels’ chairman Zhang Liaoyuan debuted on the list with an estimated net worth $1.6 billion. And Hui Deng, chairman of software company ArcSoft, made the list with an estimated worth of $1 billion. Both companies went public in July. China’s slumping car sales hurt Li Shufu, chairman of Geely Group and main owner of Volvo, whose net worth fell to $12.9 billion from $14.2 billion.

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This list was compiled using shareholding and financial information obtained from the families and individuals, stock exchanges, analysts and regulatory agencies. Assets were calculated using stock prices and exchange rates as of Oct. 25. Private companies are valued based on similar companies that are publicly listed. Collateralized shares are discounted. Unlike the Forbes Billionaires List, the Forbes China Rich List includes spouses who are involved in their partners’ business. Some estimates also include assets owned by additional family members.

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Russell Flannery

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