China Evergrande chairman Hui Ka Yan saw his wealth explode this year and, while he may not be the richest man on the mainland at this moment, he seems like the one to watch.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Hui, known also as Xu Jiayin, added nearly US$26 billion of paper wealth, thanks to a near four-fold surge in his flagship, which is now the biggest mainland property firm listed in Hong Kong.
Listed in 2009, China Evergrande went on a roller-coaster ride because of its aggressive land acquisition style. The property developer with over 500 projects in more than 200 Chinese cities recorded revenue of 188 billion yuan ($28.7 billion) in the six-months to June 2017, although its debt-to-equity ratio shot up to 6.66 times.
That’s not bad for a man born in a rural village in Henan, who started as a technician at a steel factory for 10 years after graduating from college in 1982.
Hui has come a long way. The only tycoon who had a better year was Jeff Bezos, the Amazon.com chairman whose wealth jumped $34.7 billion this year to make him the richest person in the world.
Hui is listed as having the same amount – $34.7 billion – in total assets, just behind Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing. That made Hui the 24th richest person on the planet.
The Guangdong-based property tycoon is still behind the technology giants – Alibaba Group’s Jack Ma (17th worldwide with $45.5 billion) and Tencent’s Pony Ma (19th, with $40.5 billion) – although he was briefly China’s richest man two months ago according to the Hurun Rich List.
Pony Ma is the world’s fifth billionaire who saw his wealth almost double this year. Hui and Ma are among 38 Chinese billionaires on the list whose wealth collectively jumped 65%, the biggest among the 49 countries on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The index measures the world’s 500 richest people. All up the top 500 were 23%, or US$1 trillion richer, this year, thanks to a robust global equity market.
UBS Wealth Management chief investment officer Mike Ryan explained: “It’s part of the second-most robust and second-longest bull market in history. Of all the guidance we gave people over the course of this year, the most important advice was staying invested.”