Jack Ma, Xu Jiayin and Pony Ma Huateng Are China’s Richest Persons

Big Three Billionaires
Jack Ma, Xu Jiayin and Pony Ma (Photo: Reuters)

It's not news that former English teacher and avid geek Jack Ma is really rich. What's new is how rich the Alibaba founder is.

The latest annual "Hurun China Rich List" shows Ma is now worth over US$39 billion (RMB270 billion), making him China's richest person once again. Ma, 54, saw his wealth jump 35% year-over-year on account of the valuation hike of Ant Financial, Alibaba's online payment business.

Ma was fourth on last year's Harun List. This is the second time since 2015 Ma was listed as China's richest person.

Real estate magnate Xu Jiayin, 60, chairman of real estate conglomerate Evergrande, saw his net worth plunged 14% to US$36 billion from last year. He fell to second place from first on the 2017 list. Pony Ma Huateng, 47, of internet giant Tencent had his net worth of US$35 billion lands him in the third spot.

Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Harun Report, noted that the Big Three "are pulling away from the rest."

The richest woman in China is Yang Hui Yan, 37, vice-chair of property company Country Garden Holdings. Her net worth of US$22 billion made her fourth on the list. Her wealth is derived from the majority holdings of the company founded by her father, Yang Guoqiang.

The 2018 LEXUS-Hurun China Rich List sees 1,893 individuals as its members. To be included in the list, a person has to have a net worth of at least US$290 million (RMB2 billion) as of Aug. 15.

This total was 11%, or 237, fewer than last year. A total of 456 individuals dropped out since the 2017 list while 219 new faces are included in the 2018 list.

Hoogewerf said a 20% drop in the stock exchange; a slowing economy and the U.S.-China trade war were factors in the removal of 456 billionaires this year. This is the largest number of drop-offs since records began 20 years ago. When the Hurun China Rich List was first published, only eight individuals had US$290 million.

Despite the drop in the number of billionaires, the number of individuals who have at least $290 million in assets is 89% higher compared to five years ago and four-fold that of 10 years ago.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the report. Hurun' is the Chinese translation of Hoogewerf's name. Other interesting tidbits from the report:

* There are 620 dollar billionaires in the list. This total is down 27 from 2017, but double 5 years ago and is a six-fold rise from 10 years ago. There were no dollar billionaires 20 years ago.

* Blockchain is officially China's fastest-growing industry. The list contains 14 new blockchain billionaires. This group is led by Zhan Ketuan, 39, and Wu Jihan, 32, of Bitcoin mining brand Bitmain.

* The number of women hit a 20-year high and comprises 28.7% of the list.

 * Sixty percent of the persons on the list made their wealth from the "Big Four" industries of manufacturing, real estate, investments and IT. Manufacturing was the main source of wealth for the past five years with 26.1% of the list coming from this sector.

* The average age of the billionaires on the list is 55 years old. On average, this person began his business when he was 29 years old.

* 132 of the billionaires on the list were born after 1980. That's 32 more compared to 20117.

* 50 of these persons were self-made, 11 more than last year. Colin Huang Zheng of Pinduoduo is the richest self-made person born after 1980.

* Alumni from Zhejiang University led the list with 35 alumni. Peking University alumni ranked second with 31. Tsinghua alumni numbered 25. Over half of the persons on the list, however, graduated from the "University of Life" or the School of Hard Knocks, meaning they were self-made.

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