Who Is Xu Jiayin? Real Estate Tycoon Becomes China's New Richest Man
Xu Jiayin, founder of Evergrande Group - one of the most aggressive property developers in China - has become the country's richest man, according to a survey released Thursday by The Hurun Report, which tracks wealth in the country.
Jiayin, 59, also known as Hui Ka Yan, surpassed real estate and entertainment magnate Wang Jianlin off the top of China's rich list to become the country's wealthiest man.
Jiayin's wealth quadrupled to US$ 43 billion in 2017, according to The Hurun Report. The report's list of wealthy people in China points toward a dynamic economy fueled by consumption and appetite for real estate. Both these aspects are contributing to the growth of the country where traditional engines of manufacturing and expenditure on government projects are gradually losing power, The New York Timesreported.
"The top 10 on our rich list had a year like they've never had for 10 years," said Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun's chairman, according to the publication.
Evergrande, Jiayin's company, is the nation's largest property group by sales and China's booming property market has helped accelerate its growth further, according to a report published by Fortune.
However, Evergrande's business is built on a huge pile of debt, which was almost $50 billion at the end of 2016, raising concerns if the firm could sustain its growth. Rating agency Fitch said in a report earlier this year that Jiayin's company's high-interest expenses and payouts to shareholders would prove a hindrance in the reduction of the firm's debt, CNN reported.
In fact, Jiayin has also been compared to the U.S. President and former business tycoon, Donald Trump, who also built his fortune on a real estate business under huge debt. Evergrande - said to be China's second-most indebted company - is aiming to reduce its net debt ratio to around 70 percent by June 2020 from 240 percent, according to a report published by ShanghaiDaily.com.
Evergrande was founded by Jiayin in 1996 and he listed it in Hong Kong in 2009. Known for developing thousands of middle-class homes in China, it grabbed headlines in 2010 when it bought main soccer club in its hometown of Guangzhou for $15 million, reports said.
Jiayin was born in 1958 in the Taikang County of China and completed his graduation from Wuhan University of Science & Technology, Hubei, Wuhan, from where he obtained a degree in metallurgy in the year 1982. He received an honorary Ph.D. in 2008 from the University of West Alabama.
Apart from the real estate business, Jiayin is also involved in other activities. For example, he is one of the top philanthropists in China. In 2011, the real estate magnate donated $62 million and received the National Model Worker honor by the State Department. Recently, he also announced donation worth $100 million for funding a scholarship at a university in Beijing.
Currently, he serves as the vice president of China Real Estate Association, China Entrepreneur Association, and the Chinese Enterprise Association. While CREA is a peak association authorized by the Ministry of Construction of China that has over 2,100 members, the Chinese Enterprise Association "was formed in 1998 in Philadelphia by a group of Christians to respond to the needs of many young Chinese professionals and entrepreneurs who like to establish themselves at their present position and eventually extend their services to China," according to its official website. Further, the establishment of China Entrepreneur Association in February 1999, marked a milestone in the development of Chinese enterprises in Singapore, the official website says.