Thursday, March 4, 2021

Asia’s new richest person got there on water and vaccines

Bloomberg Billionaires Index gives the low down on the Asian billionaires currently leading the high life.

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Many of the world’s wealthiest individuals have seen their fortunes soar during the pandemic, including Amazon founder and multi-billionaire Jeff Bezos.

Asia has a new richest person thanks to his vaccine-making and bottled water companies, both of which he took public this year. Zhong Shanshan has seen his wealth surge by US$7 billion this year, helping him leapfrog India’s Mukesh Ambani and China’s Jack Ma.

According to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, at the moment he is worth US$77.8 billion, making him the world’s 11th richest person.

Nicknamed the “lone wolf” Zhong’s career has spanned journalism, mushroom farming and healthcare.

Zhong took vaccine-maker Beijing Wantai Biological public in April listing its shares on the Chinese stock market. Three months later he did the same thing with Nongfu Spring, his bottled water company, publicly listing it in Hong Kong.

At the time this propelled him above Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma who had previously been China and Asia’s richest person.

Since then, Nongfu Spring has become one of Hong Kong’s hottest listings and its shares have jumped 155% since their debut. Beijing Wantai Biological’s shares are up more than 2,000% and the company is among those developing a Covid-19 vaccine.

This dramatic rise has pushed Zhong up to first place in Asia and is one of the fastest accumulations of wealth in history, according to Bloomberg.

In India, Mukesh Ambani saw his fortune surge $18.3bn to US$76.9 billion as he struck deals to transform his conglomerate Reliance Industries into a technology and e-commerce titan.

Earlier this year, Facebook said it was investing US$5.7 billion in cut-price Indian mobile internet company Reliance Jio, owned by Ambani.

Jack Ma has seen his wealth drop from a high of US$61.7 billion in October down to US$51.2 billion as his Alibaba empire faces increased scrutiny from Chinese regulators. Alibaba is being investigated over claims of monopolistic behaviour while its affiliate Ant Group had its bumper stock market listing blocked in November.

Most of China’s new billionaires come from the tech industry. But rising tensions between China and the US over Huawei, TikTok and WeChat have pushed down valuations of Chinese tech stocks.

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