China No.2 in billionaires as assets boom?

SHANGHAI Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:32am EDT

1 of 2. A Chinese girl waves national flags as she watches fireworks at the celebration of national day in Shanghai September 30, 2005. China has more billionaires than any country except the United States, as soaring stock and property prices helped to boost wealth among the country's super-rich, researcher Rupert Hoogewerf said on Wednesday.

Credit: Reuters/Aly Song

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China has more billionaires than any country except the United States, as soaring stock and property prices helped to boost wealth among the country's super-rich, researcher Rupert Hoogewerf said on Wednesday.

The number of Chinese worth $1 billion or more jumped to 108, from 15 last year, growing much faster than in western countries, Hoogewerf said in his 2007 China "rich list," which ranks the 800 wealthiest individuals in the country.

The average wealth of those on the list doubled from a year earlier to $562 million.

"There's still plenty of growth opportunity as China's top entrepreneurs turn their sights to the vast underdeveloped and largely unregulated economic hinterland," Hoogewerf said.

Yang Huiyan, 25, tops the list after receiving $17.5 billion from her property developer father, the report said, echoing another China rich list published by Forbes magazine on Tuesday.

Last year's champion, Zhang Yin, fell to second place even as her wealth tripled to $10 billion after a surge in the share price of Nine Dragons Paper (Holdings) Ltd, in which she holds a 72 percent stake.

Zhang, the world's richest self-made woman, continues to widen the wealth gap with western counterparts such as U.S. television host Oprah Winfrey, eBay Inc founder Margaret Whitman and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, according to the report.

In a sign that China's economic growth is largely driven by construction and manufacturing, rather than by science and technology, seven of China's 10 richest people are mainly or partly in the real estate business.

Xu Rongmao, owner of Shimao Property Holdings Ltd, ranked number three with $7.5 billion in wealth.

Huang Guangyu, who founded GOME Electrical Appliances Holdings and owns unlisted property businesses, is China's fourth wealthiest person with $6 billion.

Surging share prices created much of the wealth of those on Hoogewerf's list.

Nine made the list due to shareholdings in Minsheng Banking Corp -- the most prominent creator of super-rich of any Chinese company.

Ping An Insurance (Group) Co, China's second-largest life insurer, and Western Mining Co, a zinc and lead miner in China's far-flung western region, were each responsible for the wealth of seven on the list.

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