Real estate might be dominating much of the economic debate in China, retail seems increasingly a good way to become a billionaire as consumption grows, shows the latest Hurun Rich List, composed by Rupert Hoogewerf. Real estate is still the largest wealth creator, despite the change. He estimates that this year the number of billionaires in China is for the first time larger than in the US.
Take Zong Qinghou, the 65-year-old chairman of the China’s leading beverage company Hangzhou Wahaha Group, who rode the country’s thirst for bottled water, fruit juice and milk-tea to $12 billion in total assets and the top spot on Hurun’s list – up from number 12 last year. Domestic demand for food and beverages gave rise to four others who ranked in the country’s top 100 billionaires, including fifth richest Yan Bin, who owns the rights to sell energy drink Red Bull in China.
The food-and-beverage crowd aren’t the only ones prospering from the rise of the Chinese shopper. Of the 1,365 Chinese individuals worth over $150 million, Hurun says 95% earned their riches on the backs of domestic consumers.
Web users catapulted Robin Li Yanhong, the 42-year-old co-founder and chief executive of search engine Baidu, to fifth (tied with Yan at $5.3 billion). Ma Huateng, founder of Internet portal Tencent, trails only slightly behind with $4.7 billion. Meanwhile, Zhang Jindong, founder of household appliance retailer Suning, is positioned at seventh with $5 billion, thanks to a stronger market for washing machines and air conditioners.
Fatter wallets have also given the Chinese the chance to buy more clothing, helping to increase the wealth of apparel makers, such as Zhou Chengjian, founder of clothing retailer Metersbrowne, who hit number 25 with $3.5 billion, and Ding Shizhong, chairman of sporting goods company Anta, whose $3.1 billion put him at 37th.