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China's ranks of super-rich rise despite economic slowdown

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More Chinese joined the ranks of the super-rich this year, a survey showed Thursday, bringing the total to an all-time high despite dragging growth in the world's second-largest economy.

[BEIJING] More Chinese joined the ranks of the super-rich this year, a survey showed Thursday, bringing the total to an all-time high despite dragging growth in the world's second-largest economy.

A total of 2,056 people have a net worth of two billion yuan (S$410 million) or more, Shanghai-based luxury magazine publisher Hurun Report said in its Richest People in China report, up from 1,877 last year.

That rise defied the grinding slowdown in China's economic miracle, which saw growth slip to 6.9 per cent in 2015 - its lowest rate in a quarter of a century - and which has slowed further this year.

Property and entertainment mogul Wang Jianlin, 62, chairman of conglomerate Wanda Group, was tipped the richest man in China with a fortune of US$32.1 billion, down two per cent from a year ago, the survey said.

He was followed by e-commerce and financial services giant Alibaba's founder Jack Ma, whose wealth was estimated to have surged 41 per cent to US$30.6 billion on the back of a boom in the company's market capitalisation and a round of investment valuing affiliate Ant Financial at US$60 billion, it said.

Pony Ma, head of the online gaming and communications giant Tencent, which owns popular social networking app WeChat, ranked the third richest with a net worth of US$24.6 billion after cashing out US$1.9 billion from the sale of some of his shares in the company, it said.

The biggest riser this year was mysterious tycoon Yao Zhenhua, who shot up 200 places to fourth on the list on a nine-fold increase in his wealth to US$17.2 billion, the survey said.

Mr Yao made headlines over the past year for his hostile takeover bid of the country's leading real estate developer Vanke through his privately-owned Baoneng Group.

"Mr Yao's financial investment model represents the new wave of wealth creation in China," said Hurun Report chairman Rupert Hoogewerf in a statement.

"The first money made in China twenty years ago came from trading, followed by manufacturing, real estate, IT and today it is about using the capital markets for financial investments," he said.

Financial investments and the IT industry were the "hottest" wealth-creating sectors, accounting for a combined 23 per cent of the total listers, up from 20 per cent last year, the survey showed.

Manufacturing, which is plagued by overcapacity, was the biggest loser, with its share falling to 26 per cent this year from 28 per cent in 2015, it added.

AFP