Nearly half of the 100 richest people on China's mainland earned a significant portion of their wealth from real estate or related businesses, according to this year's list of China's top tycoons published by Forbes Global Magazine.
This year's list, which hits newsstands today, marks the fourth consecutive year the magazine has attempted to rank the mainland's wealthiest individuals, a task British chartered accountant Rupert Hoogewerf and his team of assistants spent six months on.
Rong Zhijian tops the roster of tycoons with personal wealth estimated at US$850 million. The 60-year-old owns 18.83 percent of Hong Kong-based Citic Pacific Group, which deals in infrastructure projects, including tunnels and bridges in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Rong spent 14 years with the Ministry of Electric Power before moving to Hong Kong in 1978 to start his own business. Nine years later, he joined Citic Pacific. Rong was ranked fourth on last year's list, which was topped by the Liu brothers -- Liu Yongxing and Liu Yonghao with a combined wealth of US$1 billion. Liu Yonghao and Liu Yongxing are ranked in sixth and eighth place this year after they split their assets, causing the magazine to calculate their wealth separately instead of combined as it did last year.
The threshold for the list this year rose to US$85 million from US$60 million last year.
Fourteen members of the list have connections with Shanghai as they were either born here or set up companies in the city.
Sixth-ranked Ye Lipei, 58, is the richest person in the city with assets valued at US$540 million. In a bold move in 1989, Ye invested heavily into Shenzhen's property market, when land prices were cheap.
To compile the list, Hoogewerf and his team researched nearly 1,000 companies through public materials.
Several high-profile business people, including auto magnate Yang Rong and orchid tycoon Yang Bin, who ranked second and third respectively on last year's list, have recently found themselves under investigation for economic crimes.
But Hoogewerf said these troubles didn't make his work any more difficult.
"Issues like tax evasion makes no trouble for us. Most people told us that it's okay to put their name on the list," he said.
When asked why Yan Rong and Yang Bin were not listed this year, Hoogewerf said it was nearly impossible for him to figure out the actual value of the two men's assets in the wake of their legal problems.
(eastday.com October 25, 2002)