BEIJING: 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 as his fortune
surged $13.5 billion to $91.7 billion since the start of the year, according to
the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Zhong, 66, is now the sixth-wealthiest person on the planet. Nongfu shares
jumped 18% in the first two trading days of 2021, taking the advance since
their September listing to 200%.
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
Zhong dethroned Mukesh Ambani as Asia’s wealthiest person last week and is
close to entering the rarefied realm of individuals worth more than $100
billion. Buffett is outside that group with an $86.2 billion fortune, but the
Berkshire Hathway Inc founder has given away more than $37 billion of stock
Investors are snapping up Chinese consumer shares as the country demonstrates
it’s recovering from Covid-19, while analysts have grown increasingly bullish
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% stake in Nongfu worth $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
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 $1.8 trillion to their fortunes and were worth a
combined $7.6 trillion by year-end. Zhong, the biggest winner from Asia,
amassed more than $71 billion, the most after Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk and
Amazon.com Inc’s Jeff Bezos.
One notable exception is Jack Ma,
until recently Asia’s richest person. He’s not been seen in public since
Chinese regulators torpedoed Ant Group Co’s $35 million initial public
offering. His net worth has dropped about $10 billion since October and he’s
now the world’s 25th-richest person.