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Business trends

ByteDance and Pinduoduo founders crash Hurun rich list

Majority of Chinese billionaire fortunes shrank as trade war took toll

NEW YORK -- Pinduoduo's Huang Zheng made it onto the Hurun Global Rich List for the first time, and ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming stood out as the biggest gainer in greater China, as his fortune rose $9.2 billion over the past year. Together the two tech founders contribute $29 billion to an otherwise shrinking 2019 list of Chinese fortunes.

Though 52 Chinese newcomers, led by Huang, have joined the ranks of billionaires, 213 greater China magnates who made last year's list did not meet the $1 billion cutoff this time. Of those who remain, 65% have smaller fortunes than a year ago.

Plunging stocks and the falling yuan, trends pushed by a domestic slowdown and the continuing U.S. trade war, are among the forces sapping Chinese wealth. The Shanghai Composite Index finished 2018 down 24.6%, while the Shenzhen Composite plummeted 33.25%.

A housing market slowdown put real estate moguls among the biggest losers this year. Country Garden's Yang Huiyan saw $9 billion of her wealth wiped out last year. The net worth of Xu Jiayin, chairman of Evergrande, dropped $7 billion, while Wanda's Wang Jianlin lost $5 billion.

The manufacturing industry, which took a hard hit from the trade war, had the sharpest drop in number of billionaires -- down to 117 from last year's 159.

Huang, whose Pinduoduo went public on the Nasdaq in July, boasts a net worth of $15 billion. Shares of the e-commerce company have gone up over 50% from the IPO price of $19.

Zhang's wealth rose 194% to $14 billion after SoftBank's $3 billion investment in ByteDance lifted the Chinese tech unicorn's valuation to $75 billion.

"Despite the slowdown in the Chinese economy, there is significant innovation going on, shown by China having more new faces [on the list] than any other country in the world," said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher at Hurun Report. "China entrepreneurs have the advantage of scalability and a strong venture capital scene."

Meanwhile, Alibaba's Jack Ma returned as China's richest person, sporting a net worth of $39 billion -- a 22% increase from a year ago. He overtakes Tencent's Pony Ma, whose fortune fell by $9 billion to $38 billion.

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