Slower economic growth took its toll on many of China’s 100 biggest fortunes, according to the 2012 Forbes China Rich List, with 45 of them slipping from last year’s count and their total assets dropping 7 percent to $220 billion.
Zong Qinghou, the founder and chairman of the beverage producer Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co Ltd, who topped the list in 2010, regained his title as the richest businessmen in China, with a net worth of nearly $10 billion, according to the list.
With an 80 percent share in Wahaha, Forbes said Zong’s fortune exceeded 60 billion yuan ($9.57 billion), over 2 billion yuan more than last year.
Wang Jianlin, chairman and president of Dalian Wanda Group Co Ltd, was the fastest riser in the past year, seeing his wealth jump from 25.6 billion yuan to 50.4 billion yuan, making up the top three with Zong and Robin Li from China’s search engine company Baidu.
The Forbes list comes a fortnight after Zong, 67, topped the Hurun Rich List 2012, which estimated his fortune at $12.6 billion, the second time he has topped the list produced by the Shanghai-based Hurun Research Institute.
Russell Flannery, a senior editor at Forbes and chief of its Shanghai Bureau, said: “Wang outperformed with his greatest success entering the entertainment industry with the announcement of a $2.6 billion acquisition of US cinema chain AMC Entertainment.”
The Forbes list was compiled using shareholding and financial information obtained from the families and individuals, stock exchanges, analysts and China’s regulatory agencies.
Public fortunes were calculated based on stock prices and exchange rates as of Sept 21. Private companies were valued based on similar companies that are publicly traded.
Compared to Zong and Wang, others in the demanding consumer sector did not fare as well, however.
Zhang Jindong, the chairman of Suning Appliance Co Ltd, saw a drop in his value of $2.4 billion, even as he opened up a commanding market lead over longtime rival Gome Electrical Appliances Holding Ltd, owned by Huang Guangyu who suffered a $2 billion drop in value and who still sits in jail for financial crimes.
Qiu Guanghe of the fashion chain Zhejiang Semir Group shed $2.8 billion and fell to 37th.
“Most of the businesses related to the consumer and retail sectors are suffering in these tough times by making less profits and experiencing some financial problems,” said Flannery. He added that the total number of billionaires in China fell from 146 last year to 113 this year, caused by the economic slowdown.
Several property tycoons also suffered, with last year’s list leader Liang Wengen seeing his worth drop $3.4 billion as demand slowed for the building materials produced by Sany Heavy Industry Co Ltd, which he chairs.
The real estate sector as a whole also saw several casualties within the list, as property deals cooled and developers saw projects shelved and prices slow.
“All those ups and downs of rich people in China in different industries lead to the conclusion that the slowdown of China’s economy has brought uncertainty to local private enterprises,” said Zhou Jiangong, chief editor of Forbes Chinese edition.