22 October 2016
Li Ka-shing (left) has ceded the crown to Wang Jianlin as the richest Chinese. In Hong Kong, Li still rules the roost.  Photo: HKEJ, Bloomberg
Li Ka-shing (left) has ceded the crown to Wang Jianlin as the richest Chinese. In Hong Kong, Li still rules the roost. Photo: HKEJ, Bloomberg

Rich menu serves an alphabet soup of young and old reliables

Li or Ma? No, Wang.

For the past 20 years, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing has been the wealthiest Chinese on the planet.

This year, the honor goes to Wanda Group chairman Wang Jianlin, according to Hurun, which compiles a list of China’s best and richest.

It seems Wang made more money by hiving off Wanda Commercial Group and Wanda Cinema Line from his sprawling business than Li did when he orchestrated a mega restructuring of his flagships.

With a fortune of US$42 billion, Wang tops Li by nearly US$10 billion.

Where is Jack Ma and Pony Ma in all of this?

The Alibaba billionaire is No. 3 on this year’s Hurun Global Chinese Rich List and Pony is three rungs down at No. 6.

The top 10 is an alphabet soup of old reliables and a surprise choice, mostly named Li or Lee.

Henderson Land (00012.HK) chairman Lee Shau-kee and Hanergy Thin Film Power Group (00566.HK) chairman Li Hejun are joint fourth. Baidu’s Li Yanlong brings up the rear. 

But Li Hejun is a weird choice after his solar firm was suspended by the Securities and Futures Commission in May.

Li Ka-shing and Lee Shau-kee, both 87, are the youngest Hong Kong tycoons on the list after Kuok Group chairman Robert Kuok, 92, and New World Development (00017.HK) founder Cheng Yu-tung, 90. They’re ranked eighth and ninth, respectively.

This group of tycoons who made their money mainly from property has an average age of 89 compared with 53 for their mainland counterparts, half of whom are internet billionaires under 51.

It’s also this group of aging titans that dominates the list of the richest non-mainland Chinese.

Li Ka-shing is the runaway leader with a fortune of US$32.8 billion, followed by Lee Shau-kee with US$26.2 billion. Kuok and Cheng both have a net worth of US$16 billion.

Hong Kong tycoons know that the road to riches is paved with property deals and the secret is to keep buying land.

According to Hurun, 40 percent of these tycoons are in the property business and four in 10 trace their ancestry to Guangdong.

A typical example is Kwong Siu-hing, former chairwoman of Sun Hung Kai Properties (00016.HK).

Kwong is the widow of founder Kwok Tak-sing. She briefly took over the company when her three sons were embroiled in a family saga that dragged on for more than three years.

At the time, Kwong, 87, was the richest woman on the list with a net worth of US$10.5 billion.

Altogether, Hong Kong has 99 tycoons with a net worth of at least 2 billion yuan each, not an impressive number given that Shenzhen has 111.

That might be the reason the Hong Kong property market can sustain a rally.

Neighboring cities are getting richer and the tycoons there are looking for a second home in Hong Kong.

Is that also why Hong Kong landlords get older but never die?

We wonder.

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EJ Insight writer

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