SHANGHAI (AFP) – Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, is China’s richest person with a fortune of nearly $20 billion, as billionaires increase despite a slowdown in the country’s economy, Forbes magazine said Tuesday.
The number of Chinese billionaires surged to 242 this year from 168 in 2013, Forbes said in its annual “China Rich List”, which ranks the wealthy.
Ma’s personal wealth ballooned to $19.5 billion from $7.1 billion last year after his company’s record breaking initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange in September, according to the magazine.
The entrepreneur also topped a similar list released last month by China-based luxury magazine publisher Hurun, which put his wealth at a much higher estimate of $25 billion.
Alibaba was founded 15 years ago with $60,000 pooled together from Ma’s friends, and is now valued at more than $240 billion after listing in the United States.
Ma, the former English teacher turned Internet visionary, reaped more than $800 million from selling shares through the IPO, according to company filings.
Wang Jianlin, whose private conglomerate Wanda bought US cinema chain AMC, was knocked out of first place and slipped to fourth this year, the Forbes list showed.
A “challenging” year for the domestic real estate sector, the main source of Wang’s wealth, has seen his fortune shrink to $13.2 billion from $14.1 billion last year, it said.
China’s economy expanded 7.3 per cent in the third quarter, its slowest pace in more than five years, in part because of government moves to rein in real estate prices.
The technology sector fared better than traditional industries amid China’s economic slowdown, commanding the top three spots and taking up half of the top 10, according to Forbes.
“Entrepreneurship is still thriving in China,” said Russell Flannery, Shanghai bureau chief for Forbes and compiler of the list.
“The different set of industries and individuals (on the list) suggest there’s still plenty of change in the economy,” he told AFP.
Robin Li – founder of Baidu, China’s version of Google – ranked second with wealth of $14.7 billion, while Pony Ma of Tencent, parent of China’s most popular messaging app WeChat, sat in third place with $14.4 billion.
Lei Jun of rapidly rising mobile phone maker Xiaomi took eighth with $9.1 billion, and Richard Liu of e-commerce site JD.com – which competes with Alibaba – was in 10th position with $7.1 billion.
Completing the top 10, Li Hejun of renewable energy firm Hanergy was in fifth place with $13.0 billion, followed by beverage tycoon Zong Qinghou of Wahaha with $11.0 billion in sixth and nonferrous metals firm Amer’s Wang Wenyin with $10.0 billion in seventh.
He Xiangjian, founder of home appliance maker Midea, took ninth with $7.5 billion.