BEIJING, China – A billionaire Chinese real estate developer who bought one of the biggest U.S. cinema chains last year has emerged as the country’s new richest tycoon.
The Hurun Report, which follows China’s wealthy, said Wednesday a surge in stock prices helped to boost the number of Chinese worth at least $1 billion by 64 to 315 this year, compared with none a decade ago. The top five saw their wealth double.
Wang Jianlin, whose Dalian Wanda Group Co. operates hotels, cinemas and department stores, was ranked No. 1 for the first time on Hurun’s annual list of Chinese tycoons with a fortune of $22 billion. Last year’s No. 1, beverage entrepreneur Zong Qinghou, was second with $18.7 billion.
Wang’s company bought AMC cinemas last year for $2.6 billion in the biggest Chinese acquisition of a U.S. company to date.
The latest rankings reflected the rapid changes in China’s economy and shifts in wealth from one industry to the next.
One in four of the 1,021 people on the Hurun Rich List made their money from real estate, which passed manufacturing to become this year’s top source of wealth. Hurun said 559 of those on the list saw their wealth grow while 252 saw their fortunes shrink.
Real estate prices in China have soared, driven partly by a flood of government spending and bank lending in response to the 2008 global crisis. That is despite government curbs imposed on lending and purchases to cool housing costs.
The surge in asset prices has helped to widen a gulf between China’s wealthy elite and the poor majority, fueling social tensions. China has more dollar billionaires than any other country except the United States.
No. 3 on the Hurun list was Ma Huateng, also known as Pony Ma, founder of Tencent Inc., a popular provider of online games and entertainment, at $10.1 billion. He was followed by Wei Jianjun, chairman of Great Wall Motor Co., which has emerged as China’s fastest-growing automaker on the strength of its popular SUVs, at $8.4 billion.
China’s richest woman was Yang Huiyan at No. 5 with $8.3 billion. Yang, daughter of the founder of real estate developer Country Gardens, was ranked No. 1 in 2007 when she took over her father’s stock holdings.