The founder of debt-laden developer China Evergrande Group, Xu Jiayin, fell to the 70th spot in this year’s list of China’s wealthiest billionaires from his perch as the richest man four years ago.
The 63-year-old real estate magnate saw his net worth plunge to $11.3 billion this year from $34.6 billion in 2020, dropping his ranking 65 notches from fifth in 2020, as the mainland’s second-largest but most indebted builder Evergrande struggles to pay off debts, according to the latest China Rich List by Hurun Research Institute.
Xu also recorded the biggest plunge in riches among Chinese billionaires as his personal wealth shrank by $25 billion, a grim reality compared with the pre-pandemic years when his fortune was ranked the third largest in 2019 and even the topmost in 2017. Now he makes headlines for hocking his firm’s private jets and mortgaging his own homes to raise cash for Evergrande.
No mainland developers were spared, as not a single real estate tycoon made it to China’s top 10 rich list amid a broad credit crunch faced by Chinese real estate developers after the government imposed the “three red lines” rule to discourage firms from excessive borrowing.
“For the first time, real estate did not have a single entrepreneur in the Top 10,” Hurun said.
Aside from the Evergrande founder, Country Garden Holdings co-chairman Yang Huiyan dropped out of Hurun’s top 10, slipping to 11th place from the sixth spot a year ago and fifth place prior to the pandemic after her personal wealth fell 15 percent to $28.7 billion.
Builders Shut Out of Forbes Top 10
Forbes’ latest list of China’s 100 Richest also showed no Chinese developer in the top 10 compared with the previous list issued in April, when Yang, the 40-year-old heiress of Country Garden, was able to cling to 10th place. She now ranks 11th after her assets dwindled.
In total, nine real estate tycoons made it into China’s 100 Richest as estimated by Forbes, with a combined wealth of $105.21 billion, accounting for 7 percent of the entire list’s collective net worth of $1.48 trillion.
The other eight real estate billionaires in the Forbes list include the founder of Beijing-based builder Dalian Wanda Group, Wang Jianlin, who was once China’s richest man but now ranks 41st on the list with $14.6 billion in total wealth.
Trailing behind is Wu Yajun of Hong Kong-listed developer Longfor Properties in the 34th spot; Evergrande’s Xu in 44th place; Cai Kui of Longfor Properties at 70th; Hui Wing Mau of Shimao Property Holdings at 71st; Hopson Development’s Chu Mang Yee at 78th; Logan Property Holdings’ Kei Hoi Pang at 92nd; and the family estate of the late Zuo Hui of KE Holdings at 95th.
Property Tycoons Now Also-Rans
Before the credit crunch hounded China’s real estate sector, Chinese property billionaires frequently dominated the Hurun China Rich List, led by Wanda’s Wang, who was the wealthiest man in China in 2013, 2015 and 2016 before Evergrande’s Xu took the top spot in 2017.
The sector’s reign was short lived, however, as the rise of e-commerce buoyed Alibaba founder Jack Ma to become the richest man in the country for three years to 2020, and as more billionaires from tech companies and other booming industries emerged this year.
“A boom in new energy entrepreneurs, sparked by carbon reduction targets, as well as a spate of new listings of tech-related companies drove this year’s Hurun China Rich List to record heights, adding more than 20 percent, both in terms of number of individuals and also total wealth,” said Hurun Report chairman and chief researcher Rupert Hoogewerf.
67-year-old Zhong Shanshan, owner of bottled water firm Nongfu Spring and a $65.9 billion fortune, and Tiktok founder Zhang Yiming, who has a $59.4 billion fortune, claimed the top two spots on both the Forbes and Hurun rich lists for the year.
Chinese developers have been missing some offshore bond payments recently, given the financial stress faced by the local real estate sector, with Evergrande and other heavily indebted builders narrowly avoiding defaults with their last-minute efforts to raise funds.