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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Richest Man in Greater China

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Richest Man in Greater China


Shanghai-Asia’s richest tycoons are profiting mightily from China’s economic rise, with Hong Kong real estate and ports magnate Li Ka-shing once again in the lead, Forbes magazine said yesterday.

Li was among many billionaires who reaped big profits from their ties to the mainland China market, as his fortune rose to an estimated US$22 billion from $18.8 billion a year before, the magazine said in announcing its annual list of the wealthiest in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Li, 78, has long been at or near the top of various rich lists compiled by financial magazines and researchers. His empire includes the Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong conglomerates.

China’s economy has been growing at rates of more than 10% for several years running. Most of the tycoons in Hong Kong and Taiwan have extensive business interests in the mainland, further benefiting from soaring real estate and stock prices. China’s main Shanghai Compostive Index more than doubled in value last year, with Hong Kong’s key index climbing 43% and Taiwan’s 20%.

Forbes compiles a separate list for mainland tycoons. The most recent version of that list was topped by Wong Kwong-yu, wealth totalled US$2.3 billion.

Hong Kong and Taiwan businesses are getting richer through investments, operating business or simply “feeling the halo effect from proximity to the mainland,” Forbes said in a press release.

Several of the tycoons topping the list added billions in wealth through share listings. That included Hong Kong’s Lee Shau Kee, No. 2 with wealth estimated at US$16.5 billion.

Lee, founder of property firm Henderson Land, received a windfall from his investment in a Hong Kong initial public offering by Nine Dragons Paper Co, a mainland-based container board and recycling company headed by Zhang Yin, China’s wealthiest businesswomen.

Zhang was No. 5 on Forbes’ mainland China list, with US$1.5 billion in assets.

Forbes said the combined net worth of the 40 richest Hong Kong and Taiwan citizens rose by US$28 billion from a year earlier to US$154 billion. Twenty-eight added to their fortunes, with only four from last year’s list losing wealth, Forbes said.

Third on the list were the three Kwok brothers, Raymond, Tomas and Walter, who run Sun Hung Kai Properties, one of Hong Kong’s biggest property owners, and have combined wealth estimated at US$14 billion.

Michael Kadoorie, whose family had extensive business interests in Shanghai before the 1949 communist revolution, is fourth with a fortune of US$9 billion, with a big stake in the Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels and CLP Holdings, a Hong Kong electric utility.

The wealthiest Taiwan-based businessman, according to the list, was Tsai Hongtu, whose US$7.1 billion in assets were mainly inherited from his father Tsai Wanlin, an insurance and real estate mogul.

Taiwan’s second wealthiest was Terry Gou, whose Hon Hai Precision, flagship of his computer manufacturing empire, has units making iPods and phones for Apple Inc on the Chinese mainland. Gou’s wealth was estimated at around $5.5 billion.