Jack Ma (馬雲) has become the richest person in Asia.
The 50-year-old founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴), China’s biggest e-commerce company, passed Li Ka-shing (李嘉誠), the Hong Kong property and ports tycoon who has held the top spot in the region since April 5, 2012, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
“I am nothing but happy when young people from China do well,” Li’s spokeswoman in Hong Kong quoted the 86-year-old as saying.
Ma has added US$25 billion to his fortune this year, riding on a 54 percent surge in the company’s shares since its September initial public offering.
He has a US$28.6 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg ranking. Li has a net worth of US$28.3 billion.
“The billionaires in China are growing their wealth faster because China’s economy is still developing, with plenty of room for growth,” Yuanta Research analyst Francis Ying said. “Hong Kong is already a mature market.”
Alibaba’s US$259 billion market capitalization makes it larger than Amazon.com Inc and EBay Inc combined, and more valuable than all but eight companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
More than half of Ma’s wealth comes from his 6.3 percent stake in Alibaba, valued at US$16.3 billion. He also controls almost half of the closely held finance unit and owner of Alipay (支付寶), a service similar to PayPal.
Ma’s interest in Alipay, an online-payment company, is expected to dilute in the next three to five years with new investors or stock distributions to employees. Ma will not realize any economic benefit from the dilution, Alibaba has said.
The fortune of Li, who controls Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd (長江實業), one of the world’s three biggest property developers, has fallen US$1.9 billion this year, according to the Bloomberg ranking.
While shares of the real-estate company gained this year, some of his other investments, including Husky Energy Inc, have dropped.
Li’s investments include real estate, ports and telecommunications. He is nicknamed “Superman” by the Hong Kong media for his investing prowess. He forecast in 2007 that China’s stock-market bubble would burst and predicted in 2009 the rally in Hong Kong property prices that would follow.
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