Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing. Photo: AFP/ Philippe Lopez
Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing. Photo: AFP/ Philippe Lopez

Do the super rich in China and Hong Kong make their money in real estate or the internet? The latest World Billionaires list from Forbes makes the answer clear:  property.

For a second year, Wanda Group’s Wang Jianlin was China’s richest man, edging out Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing.

Wang had a US$31.3 billion net worth from his Dalian Wanda entertainment and real estate empire and was ranked No. 18 on the global list.  

Li owns the conglomerate flagship CK Hutchison and real estate arm CK Property, giving him a net worth of US$31.2 billion.

However, when basing the valuation on real-time stock prices,  Li, 88, edged out Wang, 62, with US$31.5 billion.

The neck-to-neck race between Wang and Li puts them in the same top 20 league with Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

Following the two richest men in China and Hong Kong was Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma with a listed net worth of US$28.3 billion.

The 52 year-old Ma was ranked 23, 10 spots higher than rival Tencent chairman and chief executive Pony Ma Huateng, 45, with US$24.9 billion.

Both Alibaba and Tencent are the internet giants with market cap in excess of HK$ 2 trillion. Tencent became the biggest Hong Kong listed company in terms of market capitalization last year.

One spot below Pony Ma was Henderson Land Lee Shau-kee with an estimated US$ 24.4 billion.

Lee and Li have dominated the Hong Kong property market for over 40 years. Sun Hung Kai Properties is the city’s largest property developer in terms of land bank and market cap, but the ownership is split among the three brothers in the Kwok family.

In the real world equivalent of a game of Monopoly, most of the 67 Hong Kong billionaires who made the list came into their wealth from property markets.

Even Hoi Kin-hong, the only billionaire from Macau, made to the list with his property flagship Powerlong. He is listed with US$ 1 billion.

This year there were a record of 317 billionaires from China, trailing the United States which had 540.