Zhong Shanshan is setting new wealth records.
The chairman of Nongfu Spring Co., a bottled-water company that’s ubiquitous in China, is now richer than Warren Buffett after his fortune surged US$13.5 billion since the start of the year to US$91.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Zhong, 66, is now the sixth-wealthiest person on the planet after Nongfu shares jumped 18 per cent at the start of 2021.
It’s only the second time a Chinese national has broken into the world’s Top 10 -- property tycoon Wang Jianlin hit No. 8 in 2015 -- and no one from the mainland has ever ranked this high on Bloomberg’s wealth index since it launched in 2012.
Nicknamed locally as the “Lone Wolf” for avoiding involvement in clubby business groups or politics, Zhong also took vaccine maker Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise Co. public in April. The stock has soared more than 2,500 per cent.
Zhong dethroned India’s Mukesh Ambani as Asia’s wealthiest person last week and is close to entering the rarefied realm of individuals worth more than US$100 billion. Buffett is outside that group with an US$86.2 billion fortune, but the Berkshire Hathway Inc. founder has given away more than IS$37 billion of stock since 2006.
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Zhong has also helped four relatives become billionaires. His younger sister, Zhong Xiaoxiao, and three of his wife’s siblings each hold a 1.4 per cent stake in Nongfu worth US$1.3 billion, based on the ownership listed in the company’s prospectus from last year. The firm has produced dozens of millionaires, including more of Zhong’s relatives and employees.
While COVID-19 upended much of the global economy in 2020, it was a good year for the world’s ultra-rich. The 500 wealthiest people added US$1.8 trillion to their fortunes and were worth a combined US$7.6 trillion by year-end. Zhong, the biggest winner from Asia, amassed more than US$71 billion, the most after Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk and Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos.