Hurun billionaires defy pandemic with record growth

Colin HuangDespite the disruption caused by COVID-19, eight new dollar billionaires were created on average each week last year, according to the latest Hurun Global Rich List.Three individuals – Tesla’s Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Chinese e-commerce giant Pinduoduo’s Colin Huang  (pictured left) added $50bn to their worth over the past twelve months. In a surprise move, Huang last week announced that he was stepping down as chairman of the Chinese e-commerce  giant.

Hurun Report chairman Rupert Hoogewerf attributed the record increase in wealth to a stock market boom that has been driven partly by quantitative easing and a flurry of new listings, although relentlessly low interest rates may also have played their part. “At this rate, expect to see 50 or more [billionaires]  break through the $100-billion mark within the next five years,” he said.

Along with Musk and Bezos, this year’s Hurun Rich List features many of the usual suspects, including LVMH’s Bernard Arnault, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. But there is also a newcomer – Zhong Shanshan, (main picture), whose rise to prominence began in 1996 when he founded a bottled water company in Hangzhou, which later became Nongfu Spring.  Last September, its $1.1bn IPO attracted a record level of retail orders, and helped establish him as one of China’s two wealthiest individuals (alongside Alibaba’s Jack Ma) which propelled him to number six spot in the Hurun report. Zhong also owns 75% of Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy, one China’s leading manufacturers of infectious disease diagnostics and a global leader in Hepatitis E diagnostics. Last April, its IPO on the Shanghai Stock Exchange was reported to be 2,447.94 times oversubscribed.

Cyrus PoonawallaAccording to the report, India is now creating billionaires at the same rate as the US. Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani is its richest man and India’s top-ranking billionaires also include Adani Group’s Gauta Adani, HCL’s Shiv Nadar and Lakshi MIttlal of Arcelor Mittal. One man whose wealth can be said to have increased becaue of the COVID-19 pandemic rather than despite of it is the man in 5th place on Hurun’s India Rich List. As chairman of the Poonawalla Group which owns the Serum Institute of India, Cyrus S. Poonawalla is ultimately the beneficiary of global demand for the Astra Zeneca vaccine that is currently at the centre of a row between the EU and the UK.