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Business Trends

Jack Ma returns as China's wealthiest

Rising value of Ant Financial brings Alibaba chairman back to top of Hurun list

Jack Ma plans to step down as chairman of Alibaba to concentrate on education and other activities.   © Reuters

HONG KONG -- Outgoing Alibaba Group Holding Chairman Jack Ma Yun is back to being China's wealthiest person, according to a widely followed annual ranking of the nation's wealthy.

The Shanghai-based Hurun Research Institute said that Ma's net worth rose 35% to $39 billion as of August compared with a year earlier. It credited this to the rising value of Ant Financial Services Group, the privately held Alibaba affiliate that runs the Alipay payment service.

Ant, which has been considering an initial public offering, is now worth more than $100 billion while Alibaba has overtaken Tencent Holdings this year to become China's most valuable public company.

"Jack Ma made 90% of his fortune after the age of 50, which should give people under the age of 50 a lot of hope," said Hurun founder Rupert Hoogewerf.

Ma last month said he would step down as Alibaba chairman next year. Daniel Zhang Yong, his designated successor, ranked 1,007th on the Hurun list, with a wealth of $580 million. Eleven other Alibaba or Ant executives also made the rankings.

Overall Hurun counted 1,893 residents of China with at least 2 billion yuan ($289 million) in assets this year, 11.1% fewer than last year, as Chinese stocks tumbled into bear market territory. The list saw a lot of turnover, with 456 individuals dropping below the wealth threshold and 219 new joiners.

IPOs were a key driver of rising wealth. Lei Jun, founder of smartphone company Xiaomi which listed in Hong Kong in July, popped into the top 10 with $16 billion in assets. Huang Zheng, founder of social shopping site Pinduoduo, which listed in New York in July, debuted on the list in 13th place with $14 billion.

Zeng Yuqun, founder of car battery marker CATL, which also recently floated, made his first appearance on the list at 53rd. Zhan Ketuan, co-founder of BitMain Technologies, a cryptocurrency mining equipment company whose IPO is pending in Hong Kong, cracked the top 100 with $4.3 billion.

Last year's richest, China Evergrande Group Chairman Xu Jiayin, slipped to No. 2 while Pony Ma Huateng, the Tencent chairman, was third. Falling out of the top 10, due to share price declines, were Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Chairman Li Shufu and NetEase Chief Executive William Ding Lei.

Zhou Qunfei, founder of phone component maker Lens Technology, experienced the biggest wealth decline of those in the top 100, with the net worth of her and her husband slipping 45% to $5.7 billion.

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