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Worth US$125 billion combined: meet Hong Kong and China’s richest billionaires although charity seems to lag

Worth US$125 billion combined: meet Hong Kong and China’s richest billionaires although charity seems to lag

Originally published at the South China Morning Post on January 29, 2016.

Four mainland Chinese business magnates and two Hongkongers are among the world’s 50 richest billionaires, a new report reveals.

The group of big-hitters are worth a combined US$125 billion, according to the latest data from consultancy Wealth-X.

China ranks second only to the United States in the latest list of countries which are home to the most billionaires.

Real estate giant Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda Group was the top Chinese billionaire, placing 16th on the global list with a net worth of US$29.2 billion.

He was followed by Alibaba’s Jack Ma (23rd), Tencent’s Huateng (Pony) Ma (40th) and Xiaomi’s Jun Lei (47th) - while Hong Kong tycoons Li Ka-shing and Lee Shau-kee 35th and 38th respectively. They are all self-made billionaires.

Four other billionaires from Asia also made the top 50 - three from India and one from Saudi Arabia.

The power 50 have a combined fortune nearly equal to Australia’s GDP.

And it seems that across the world - the gap between rich and poor is widening.

A recent study by Oxfam found the wealth of the richest 62 people in the world is now equal to half of the global population— and seven of those billionaires are from Hong Kong and China.

Just five years ago, the number of people whose wealth was the same as half of the world was 388.

Despite being named as China’s two richest men, Wang and Jack Ma donated less than 0.3 per cent of their total net worth to charity last year.

Meanwhile there were reports last year that Jack Ma and Pony Ma were competing to build the most expensive home in Hong Kong as they competed to be crowned the mainland’s internet king.

The combined fortune of the world’s top 50 billionaires amounts to US$1.45 trillion, the report said.

Leading the pack was American tycoon Bill Gates - worth US$87.4 billion. Meanwhile Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg placed 8th with a net worth of US$42.8 billion - making him the youngest to make the list at just 31 years old.

Billionaires from Spain, Sweden, France, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Italy and Nigeria also featured.

Spanish retail tycoon Amancio Ortega Gaona of Inditex ranked second with a net worth of US$66.8 billion.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 46 of the top 50 are men. 12 are from the technology sector, and 29 are from the US - more than any other country.

But who are the big-hitters in China and Hong Kong? We look at how these mega entrepreneurs have made their billions.


Wang Jianlin

Age: 61

Ranking: 16

Net Worth: US$29.2 billion

Company: Dalian Wanda Group

Industry: Real Estate

Location: China

Former military-man Wang amassed his fortune in real estate and currently serves as chairman of Dalian Wanda Group. After listing his group’s commercial property arm in Hong Kong in December 2014 and its Cinema China on Shenzhen’s stock market last January, his wealth more than doubled. The group recently acquired Legendary Entertainment - one of the US production firms behind the movies Jurassic World, Godzilla and The Dark Knight - for US$3.5 billion. Born in Chengdu, Sichuan, Wang’s father was a veteran of the Chinese red army. Meanwhile Wang joined the Chinese People’s Liberation Army based in Inner Mongolia in 1970, and became a cadre when he was 28. He graduated from Liaoning University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree. Wang ranked second of a 100-person list of top philanthropists in China by Harvard University, having donated 315 million yuan.


Jack Ma

Age: 51

Ranking: 23

Net Worth: US$26.5 billion

Company: Alibaba

Industry: Technology

Location: China

An online giant and entrepreneur, Ma has become a symbol for China’s growing internet and mobile industry as executive chairman of Alibaba Group. A former English lecturer at the Hangzhou Institute of Electrical Engineering (now Hangzhou Dianzi University), Ma founded China Yellowpages before starting Alibaba Group in 1999 with 17 partners and an initial investment of $60,000. Fast-forward to 2014, the e-commerce company grew and officially became the largest public offering in history at US$25 billion with a market capitalization of more than $230 billion. Ma has donated 132 million yuan to charity - making him the ninth most generous philanthropist in China.


Li Ka-shing

Age: 87

Ranking: 35

Net Worth: US$19.5 billion

Company: CK Hutchison Holdings

Industry: Diversified Investments

Location: Hong Kong

Crowned Hong Kong’s richest man by Forbes for the 18th straight year, Li is chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings. Originally from Chaozhou, China, he fled during the Sino-Japanese war to Hong Kong in 1940 where he began his career as a plastic salesperson. He created Cheung Kong Industries, a plastics trading company, in 1950 and developed the firm into a real estate investment company later renamed Cheung Kong (Holdings). Throughout the years, Li grew his business empire to cover ports, retail, telecommunications and biotechnology, now operating in more than 50 countries. Spurring controversy by selling major property projects on the mainland recently. Li restructured his empire into CK Hutchison and Cheung Kong Property while his proposed merger of Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings and Power Assets Holdings were voted down by shareholders.


Lee Shau-kee

Age: 88

Ranking: 38

Net Worth: US$18.5 billion

Company: Henderson Land Development

Industry: Real Estate

Location: Hong Kong

Dubbed “Hong Kong’s Warren Buffett,” Lee is chairman of Henderson Land Development, which controls the HK$189 billion real estate empire he founded about 40 years ago. Born in Shunde, China, Lee moved to Hong Kong before the Communist Party took power when he was 20 years old.

Working in gold, hardware, money exchange before co-founding his property company with businessmen Tak Seng Kwok and King Hey Fung and establishing Sung Hung Kai Properties with the two in 1963. Lee founded Henderson Land Development in 1973, growing the firm to be one of Hong Kong’s top real estate development companies. In June last year, Lee said he would set up a HK$1 billion charity fund to help the poor.


Pony Ma Huateng

Age: 44

Ranking: 40

Net Worth: US$17.1 billion

Company: Tencent Holdings

Industry: Technology

Location: China

Rivalling Jack Ma as one of China’s biggest internet tycoons, Ma Huateng (known as Pony Ma) is chairman of Tencent Holdings. Originally from Shantou in Guangdong, China, Ma obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Shenzhen University before starting his career in the telecommunication sector as a software engineer for China Motion Telecom Development where he became head of development. He founded Tencent in 1998, which owns the popular messaging services WeChat and QQ.com as well as Tencent Games, the largest online game community in China according to Forbes. The company was listed in Hong Kong in 2004 at an offer price of HK$3.70.


Lei Jun

Age: 46

Ranking: 47

Net Worth: US$14.4 billion

Company: Xiaomi

Industry: Technology

Location: China

Dubbed ‘China’s Steve Jobs’, Lei is chairman and CEO of Xiaomi, one of the world’s largest smartphone makers which overtook Samsung to become China’s leading smartphone vendor in 2014. Born in Xiantao in Hubei, China - Lei graduated from Wuhan University in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science before starting a career in software engineering. Before co-founding Xiaomi in 2010, Lei helped found software developer Kingsoft in 1992, becoming chief executive in 1998 and guiding the company to a successful initial public offering on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Lei also helped establish online bookstore and e-commerce site Joyo.com and online entertainment company YY Incorporated. Also founding partner and chairman of venture capital Shunwei, Lei became a leading Chinese angel investor in 2004.

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