Electronics retailer tops China richest list
A 35-year-old electronics salesman who made a US$1.3 billion (euro 1.05 billion) fortune in retailing and real estate has been named by a British-based financial magazine as Chinese mainland's wealthiest businessman.
The annual list of Chinese millionaires, compiled by Shanghai-based researcher Rupert Hoogewerf, offers a snapshot of changing times, as entrepreneurs finding niches in light industries and services build up financial empires that are overtaking more traditional businesses.
In a list published Tuesday, London-based Euromoney put Huang's fortune at US$1.3 billion (euro 1.05 billion). Chen Tianqiao, the 31-year-old founder of online games company Shanda Networking Development, was listed as second richest, with personal wealth estimated at US$1.05 billion (euro 846 million).
Third was Larry Yung, also known as Larry Rong Zhijian, who heads government-backed investment company Citic Pacific Ltd., and has assets estimated at US$1 billion (euro 800 million).
Perennially ranked at or near the top of any list of Chinese tycoons, Shanghai-born Yung, 62, is the son of former Vice President Rong Yiren, a wealthy textile magnate who stayed in China after the 1949 revolution and handed his fortune to the government.
Yung moved to Hong Kong in 1978 to run a venture capital firm and founded Citic Pacific in 1986. Its interests include aviation, infrastructure, real estate and telecoms.
The lion's share of tycoons on the list of China's 100 wealthiest individuals made fortunes in real estate -- a sector that has flourished amid a national construction boom.
Others list furniture, animal feed, steel and other traditional industries as their core businesses.
But as the purchasing power of domestic consumers surges and their tastes grow more sophisticated, a growing share of China's millionaires are capitalizing on demand for products and services once absent from such lists, such as health care products, fruit juices and online games.
Huang -- also known as Wong Kwong Yu -- left southern China's Guangdong for Beijing in 1986 and started out selling simple appliances with a bank loan, according to the list. The more than 150 GoMe Appliances superstores across China now have more than one-third of the market and employ more than 40,000 people.
Hoogewerf, who has been compiling lists of China's wealthy since 1999, noted that as China's economy booms, the size of many personal fortunes is soaring.
Ranked last at No. 100 on this year's list, Olympic gymnastics gold medalist Li Ning's sporting goods business was estimated at US$150 million (euro 121 million). In 1999, the smallest fortune on the list was US$6 million (euro 4.8 million).
But others have seen wealth evaporate, often because of falling share prices.
No. 1 on last year's Euromoney list, Internet entrepreneur William Ding Lei, dropped to No. 7 with a fortune of US$600 million (euro 484 million) this year. The 33-year-old founder of popular Internet portal NetEase.com Inc. had assets estimated at US$900 million (euro 726 million) in 2003.