Wanda boss tops Forbes rich list

By Wang Cong Source:Global Times Published: 2015-10-26 23:03:01

Ranking points to real estate improvement: experts

A Wanda Plaza in Changchun, Northeast China's Jilin Province Photo: CFP

Wang Jianlin, chairman of conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, took the top spot in the 2015 Forbes China Rich List, knocking e-commerce giant Alibaba's chairman Jack Ma Yun back to second, according to the list released by Forbes magazine on Monday.

The net worth of Wang, whose business involves real estate and entertainment, reached 190.5 billion yuan ($30 billion) in 2015, a significant increase from 2014's 80.8 billion yuan, according to the list, which was posted Monday on forbeschina.com.

Experts said the rise in Wang's net worth showed the effectiveness of Wanda's shift to an "asset-light" strategy, with better signs in the domestic real estate sector also helping.

"This showed the asset-light strategy is working for Wanda," said Liu Yuan, an analyst at real estate information provider Centaline.

Wanda's asset-light strategy involves seeking outside investment to finance new property developments and selling them off after five or seven years, according to media reports.

Liu said real estate is just part of Wanda's business nowadays, following its expansion into entertainment and other industries, but Wang's net worth increase also showed the real estate business is improving.

Wang's real estate holdings are worth $18.8 billion, according to the 2015 Hurun Property Rich List released on October 21, an increase of 9 percent from last year's list. The Hurun list said the real estate sector was still offering strong profits for the top developers.  

However, only Wang Jianlin and one other real estate developer, Xu Jiayin, chairman of Evergrande Real Estate Group, made the Top 10 on the Forbes list this year.

The list was dominated by Internet entrepreneurs, with Jack Ma Yun and Ma Huateng, chairman of Internet giant Tencent Holdings, taking second and third spots with net worth of 138.4 billion yuan and 111.8 billion yuan, respectively, as the Forbes report showed.

Fu Liang, an independent IT expert, said the domination of the top 10 by Internet magnates pointed to the stable and fast growth of the sector in China. 

This trend will continue as China tries to boost consumption and the Internet sector continues to combine with conventional industries to a greater degree, Fu told the Global Times Monday.

However, even though prospects are still good in the sector, the Internet industry has passed its peak in terms of growth speed, and new strategies and innovation are necessary to stimulate demand, Fu noted.

He said fully implementing the "Internet Plus" strategy will provide new opportunities for both conventional businesses and online firms.  

The net worth of all the Internet magnates in the Forbes top 10 increased, except for Li Yanhong, chairman of Baidu Inc. Li ranked sixth this year, down from last year's second position with his net worth dropping to $10.4 billion from last year's $14.7 billion, the list showed.

Fu attributed the decrease in Li's net worth to Baidu's difficulties in gaining users for its new "fancy" products.

Despite the sluggish economy and the stock market slump, most of the people in the Forbes top 100 saw an increase in their net worth, with their total net worth rising 20 percent to $450 billion this year, Russell Flannery, Shanghai bureau chief for Forbes, was quoted as saying in a report by Forbes.

The increase in the total net worth of the top 100 also showed signs of new business opportunities related to the current transitional stage in China's economy, Flannery said.  

Flannery noted that despite the stock market slide in recent months, the Shanghai Composite Index is still up 50 percent from last year, which is partly due to investor confidence that the technology, healthcare and entertainment sectors will flourish as China moves away from an economic model based on low-cost manufacturing.  

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