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Trade war bites China's ultra-wealthy

Number of Chinese, or China-based magnates, with a net worth of over 2b yuan falls by 237 to 1,893 individuals


CHINA'S ULTRA-wealthy saw their ranks thinned this year as the trade war with the US pummelled stocks and shredded billions of dollars of paper wealth, a survey showed Wednesday.

The number of Chinese, or China-based magnates, with a net worth of over two billion yuan (S$399.5 million) fell by 237 to 1,893 individuals this year, according to the annual ranking compiled by Shanghai-based luxury magazine publisher Hurun Report.

More than half of the richest Chinese saw their wealth shrink or remain unchanged during the year, the survey showed, while a record number of individuals were knocked from the rankings.

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A 20 per cent drop in the stock exchange, "on the back of a slowing economy and the US-China trade war, resulted in 456 drop-offs this year, the highest since records began twenty years ago", said Hurun Report chairman Rupert Hoogewerf.

Gone from the list are chemical industry magnate Zhu Shuangquan, lighting titan Zhang Yutao and electric components makers Zhong Xiaoping and wife Liu Qiuxiang, all of whom have seen their companies' share prices sink this year.

The manufacturing sector has been hit particularly hard by US President Donald Trump's tariffs on roughly half of China's imports - and the proportion of those with fortunes made in the sector fell to 26.1 per cent from 27.9 per cent last year.

While the world's second largest economy still boasts the most dollar billionaires of any country in the world, their ranks were thinned to 620 people, according to Hurun.

Alibaba's Jack Ma, on the other hand, saw his fortunes improve, retaking the mantle of China's richest from real estate mogul Xu Jiayin, who dropped to number two.

Mr Ma's wealth shot up to US$39 billion as his large stake in Ant Financial, operator of the world's largest money market fund and a mobile payment goliath, saw its valuation rise.

His endeavours also boosted the fortunes of 13 others who made the rich list on his coattails.

But Mr Ma lags far behind American titans like Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, with Forbes recently valuing Mr Bezos' wealth at US$112 billion.

Mr Ma recently announced his planned retirement from the e-commerce giant he founded with plans to follow Mr Gates down the path of philanthropy.

Chinese women saw their share of wealth shoot up, making up 28.7 per cent of the list this year, a 20-year high, according to Hurun.

The richest woman was Yang Huiyan, heir to a property fortune, with a net worth of US$22 billion.

Making it to the top in China is by no means a get out of jail free card - 12 individuals faced problems with the authorities, including nine under investigation, according to Hurun.

With a fortune estimated at 25 billion yuan, Tomorrow Holdings owner Xiao Jianhua has not been seen since Chinese authorities whisked him across the border from a Hong Kong luxury hotel last year. AFP

China's Top 10:

  • Jack Ma (Alibaba) & family: US$39 billion
  • Xu Jiayin (Evergrande): US$36 billion
  • Pony Ma (Tencent): US$35 billion
  • Yang Huiyan (Country Garden): US$22 billion
  • Wang Jianlin (Wanda Group) & family: US$20 billion
  • He Xiangjian & He Jianfeng (Midea): US$19 billion
  • Wang Wei (SF Express): US$17.5 billion
  • Yan Hao (China Pacific Construction) & family: US$17.5 billion
  • Robin Li & Melissa Ma (Baidu): US$17 billion
  • Lei Jun (Xiaomi): US$16 billion
  • Wang Wenyin (Amer) & family: US$16 billion