A multi-billionaire who bought US cinema chain AMC Entertainment and has just acquired a luxury British yacht builder has taken top spot as China’s richest man, Forbes magazine said.
Wang Jianlin (王健林), head of conglomerate Wanda Group (萬達集團) — a private firm with interests ranging from property to retailing — had estimated wealth of US$14 billion, the magazine said on its Web site.
His fortune soared from US$8 billion last year, when he was in third place, putting him now US$3 billion ahead of former title-holder Zong Qinghou (宗慶后), it said.
A recovery in China’s property market helped swell Wang’s wealth, Forbes Shanghai bureau chief Russell Flannery said yesterday.
“Urbanization is going to boost demand for real estate in important Chinese cities for a long time,” said Flannery, who compiles the magazine’s annual ranking of China’s richest people.
“That has fueled wealth creation not only in China, but all across Asia,” Flannery said.
Wang’s wealth comes mainly from commercial real estate, which has been less affected by a Chinese government crackdown on surging home prices.
China has sought for more than three years to control residential property prices, but the government has recently signaled it might not take further tightening steps.
Beijing is encouraging Chinese companies to “go out” and buy up assets around the globe, and Wanda Group acquired AMC Entertainment last year for US$2.6 billion.
The company’s acquisition of British yacht builder Sunseeker — whose powerboats have featured in James Bond films — completed last month, and Chinese media also said in June that Wanda plans to build London’s tallest residential towers.
Wanda was founded in 1988 and has total assets of 300 billion yuan (US$49 billion).
Its net profit topped 10 billion yuan last year, which the company aims to double by 2015, according to its Web site.
Zong, who heads soft-drink producer Wahaha and was previously China’s richest person, now has wealth of US$11 billion, Forbes said, up from US$10 billion last year.
Forbes’ complete “China Rich List” is due to be released soon, Flannery said.