China’s billionaires see biggest gains ever, adding more than $1.5 trillion to their fortunes

Jack Ma, Alibaba Group

Jean Chung | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A spate of IPOs and robust tech growth helped China’s billionaires add $1.5 trillion to their wealth, bringing the total worth of China’s billionaires to $4 trillion, according to a new report, which described the increase as the country’s fastest growth ever.

China minted 257 billionaires over the past year — averaging five new billionaires a week — bringing the total to 878, according to the Hurun Rich List 2020, which tracks wealth in China. That total would exceed the 788 billionaires in the U.S., as measured by Wealth-X. (Wealth-X and others, however, use different methodologies for China and put China’s billionaire count lower than that of the U.S.)

“The world has never seen this much wealth created in just one year,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun Report chairman and chief researcher. “China’s entrepreneurs have done much better than expected. Despite Covid-19, they have risen to record levels.”

China’s soaring stock markets, a flood of initial public offerings and surging growth in the tech sector have all helped to fuel the country’s latest wealth boom. Jack Ma, co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba, topped China’s billionaire ranking for the third year in a row, with $59 billion. He saw his fortune increase 45%, due mainly to the upcoming IPO of fintech giant Ant Group.

“The Hurun China Rich List recorded more wealth created this year than the previous five years combined, suggesting that the structure of the economy has evolved, moving away from traditional sectors like manufacturing and real estate, towards the new economy,” Hoogewerf said.

Just as in the U.S., China’s first two months of the outbreak saw massive wealth destruction, followed by a V-shaped recovery for stock markets and then a massive digital boom, according to Hurun.

Ranking second on the billionaire’s list is Pony Ma, founder, chairman and CEO of tech conglomerate Tencent. His wealth increased 50% to $57.4 billion, driven by Tencent’s strong gaming business and growth in WeChat. Ranking third was Zhong Shanshan, chairman of YST, which makes bottled water.

Other big wealth winners over the past year included China’s “food delivery king” Wang Xing of Meituan- Dianping, who quadrupled his wealth to $25 billion, after winning market share from Alibaba. China’s “express delivery king” Wang Wei of SF Express more than doubled his wealth to $35.3 billion, the report said.

Zhou Qunfei of Lens, the touchscreen maker, saw her fortune more than triple to $17 billion, making her one of the three richest self-made women in the world.