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Business trends

Select Chinese billionaires gain riches amid coronavirus turmoil

Xu Hang, founder of ventilator maker Mindray, now wealthier than Samsung chairman

The Shanghai Stock Exchange. Chinese stocks have fared better than their overseas peers during the pandemic, boosting the fortunes of some billionaires.    © Reuters

SHANGHAI -- The surge in demand for medical equipment, online learning and videoconferencing amid the coronavirus outbreak has increased the wealth of a number of Chinese billionaires by as much as 77% in just two months, according to Shanghai research company Hurun Research.

Tracking the impact of COVID-19 on the assets of the richest 100 globally over February and March, Hurun Research said Monday that nine of its Global Top 100 -- all Chinese -- grew wealthier while 86 saw a fall in their assets and five witnessed no change.

"China has been the relative winner, with its stock markets weathering the virus better than its U.S. and European counterparts," said Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun chairman and chief researcher, noting that the wealth pool of the top 100 had shrunk by $408 billion.

Bucking the trend is Xu Hang, founder of Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics, whose assets jumped by 26% to $13.5 billion. This lifted him by 78 places on Hurun's ranking to 88th, beating even Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee.

The Shenzhen-listed company supplies medical devices to over 190 countries. It won a contract last month to supply Italy with nearly 10,000 pieces of equipment including ventilators and ultrasound devices. Xu, said to be a resident of Singapore, and two partners relisted the company in Shenzhen last year, three years after buying out its U.S.-traded stock. The new shares have risen 41% so far this year.

The other big gainers among China's top billionaires include the leading shareholders of pork producers Muyuan Foods and New Hope Group and the chairman of soy sauce maker Foshan Haitian Flavouring & Food.

 

Soaring demand for Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics’ ventilators to treat coronavirus victims has lifted the wealth of founder Xu Hang.   © AP

Elsewhere in the top 100, JD.com founder Richard Liu and Xiaomi peer Lei Jun both saw their wealth edge up, as did pharmaceutical power couple Sun Piaoyang and Zhong Huijuan, Longfor Properties Chairperson Wu Yajun and delivery company SF Express founder Wang Wei.

Outside the top ranks, Hurun noted that the wealth of China-born Eric S. Yuan, chief executive of videoconferencing company Zoom Video Communications, rose by 77% to $8 billion over the two months. Founded in 2011 in California, the Nasdaq-listed company's revenue grew 88% to $622.7 million in the year ended Jan. 31 on the back of a 61% growth in customer numbers.

Li Yongxin and his mother Lu Zhongfang of Offcn Education Technology saw their combined wealth rise 20% to $11.5 billion. The civil service test platform provider offers both online and offline courses across 1,000 outlets nationwide. The Shenzhen-listed group has been actively rolling out online classes to meet demand as governments closed schools because of the pandemic, according to local reports.

Mukesh Ambani of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, the only Asian in Hurun's top 10, suffered a 28% decline in his assets to $19 billion.

Hurun also noted that Charles Lu Zhengyao and Jenny Qian Zhiya fell out of the billionaire sphere after shares in their Chinese chain Luckin Coffee tumbled last week on news that company revenues had been wrongly inflated.

The Xiamen-based operator is facing lawsuits from investors and the possibility of being delisted even as it vowed to take action against perpetrators in a statement of apology on Sunday. Shares of car-rental company Car Inc., which Lu founded, crashed last Friday, a day after Luckin's slump in the U.S..

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