China's richest list: 15 billionaires

Updated: 2006-11-02 14:42

A 37-year-old appliance merchant topped a list of China's richest businesspeople released Thursday by the business magazine Forbes, leading a group of young entrepreneurs who have profited from the country's economic boom. 

Wong Kwong-yu (Huang Guangyu), founder of Gome Appliances, saw his wealth expand to US$2.3 billion (euro1.8 billion), driven by a jump in homebuying by China's newly prosperous middle class, according to Forbes.

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The top richest Chinese according to Forbes magazine:

1 Wong Kwong Yu 37 Beijing Retailer $2.3 billion

2 Xu Rongmao 56 Hong Kong Property development $2.1 billion

3 Larry Rong Zhijian 64 Hong Kong Real estate, banking $2 billion

4 Zhu Mengyi 47 Guangzhou Real estate $1.9 billion

5 Yan Cheung 49 Hong Kong Manufacturing $1.5 billion

6 Zhang Li 52 Guangzhou Property development $1.45 billion

7 Shi Zhengrong 43 Wuxi Technology $1.43 billion

8 Liu Yongxing 58 Shanghai Animal feed, metals $1.16 billion

9 Guo Guangchang 39 Shanghai Steel, real estate, retail $1.15 billion

10 Lu Guanqiu 61 Hangzhou Auto parts $1.14 billion

The release of the 400-person Forbes China Rich List comes at a time when some of China's richest businesspeople are ensnared in scandals. A real estate tycoon ranked 16th on last year's list was arrested last month in a corruption investigation.

One quarter of those on this year's list are under age 40, reflecting the fact that most of China's fortunes have been made in the past decade as retail, Internet and real estate companies sprang up to serve a booming consumer market.

"China's richest are a lot younger than America's richest," said Russell Flannery, Forbes' Shanghai bureau chief at a news conference.

A Chinese business magazine, Caijing, reported this week that Wong was under investigation for illegal loans. Trading of Gome shares in Hong Kong was suspended Tuesday following the report, but the company said Wednesday it had received no notice of such an investigation. Wong's name also is spelled Huang Guangyu.

No. 2 on the list was property developer Xu Rongnao, with a fortune of US$2.1 billion (euro1.65 billion), followed by Larry Yung, chairman of conglomerate Citic Pacific, with US$2 billion (euro1.6 billion). Yung, also known as Rong Zhijian, was No. 1 last year.

The richest woman was No. 5 Zhang Yin, who built a paper-recycling business into Nine Dragons Paper Co., China's biggest maker of paperboard for packaging, at US$1.5 billion (euro1.18 billion).

Zhang was No. 1 on a competing list of China's richest released October 11 by journalist Rupert Hoogewerf, who used to compile Forbes' rankings.

Flannery said Forbes calculated Zhang's wealth separately from the stakes that her husband and brother own in Nine Dragons. If their holdings were added together, the family would be No. 1 on the Forbes list.

The magazine noted that No. 16 on last year's list, Shanghai developer Zhang Rongkun, was dropped this year after he was arrested in a corruption investigation and his company's share price plunged.

The Shanghai Communist Party secretary has been dismissed in the scandal over allegations that government pension funds were improperly invested in real estate. Other officials are being questioned.

Also this week, state media reported that the multimillionaire founder of a company in the southern province of Guangdong that makes industrial coatings was detained on charges of evading 6.5 million yuan (US$800,000; euro650,000) in taxes. Zhang Weibin was No. 498 on Hoogewerf's list.

Forbes noted that the average of businesspeople on its China list was 46.5 years, compared with 65.7 years for the comparable US list.

But their fortunes also were smaller, averaging US$950 million (euro685 million) for the 400 people on the China list, versus US$13.2 billion (euro9.5 billion) for the US list, Forbes said. The minimum net worth required to make the list of China's top 400 rose this year to US$100 million (euro70 million), up from US$62 million in 2005.

The Chinese list includes six women, compared with seven on the US list, but China's includes self-made entrepreneurs such as Zhang, while the American women generally inherited their wealth, Forbes said.

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