Two of the three richest people in China may have been from the internet and e-commerce space in 2017, but the top three sectors by the number of billionaires are biotechnology, property, and semiconductor and electronics manufacturing, according to a survey released on Monday.
Pony Ma Huateng, founder and chief executive of the US$500 billion Chinese technology giant Tencent, property tycoon Xu Jiayin, chairman of real estate developer Evergrande Group and Alibaba Group Holding’s Jack Ma Yun were listed as the three richest people in China with assets of 282.2 billion yuan (US$44.5 billion), 260.9 billion yuan and 213.8 billion yuan respectively, the list complied by mainland media Jiemian showed.
Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.
The list was based on information pulled from Chinese stock exchanges, company announcements and overseas stock exchange filings of companies that were posted as of the end of December last year.
The mainland’s 1,000 richest people, with assets of at least 3 billion yuan each, held a collective 12.5 trillion yuan in 2017. However, this falls short of the US$2 trillion (12.6 trillion yuan) in net worth held by just 159 American billionaires last year, according to Bloomberg.
What stood out in the Jiemian list was that the top three sectors by the number of Chinese billionaires were not related to internet or e-commerce. Instead they made their fortunes from biotech, property, and semiconductor and electronics manufacturing.
The pharmaceutical biotechnology sector had 105 billionaires, the property sector had 92, and 75 came from the semiconductor and electronics manufacturing sectors.
Chemicals and IT ranked fourth and fifth, accounting for 74 and 55 billionaires respectively.
“Biotech companies are indeed like cash cows,” said Shen Meng, executive director with investment bank Chanson & Co.
“Now Chinese people are much more health conscious, with a huge population base, combined with the fact that drugs are also fast-moving consumer goods, so once pharmaceutical companies get government approval to develop and sell their drugs, profit prospects would look even better for them,” he said.
China’s biotech companies have maintained a relatively good ability to gain profits compared with other sectors, according to a study conducted by China’s National Pharmaceutical Industry Information Centre last year. The centre said biotechnology companies raked in around 3.3 trillion yuan in income for 2017, a 12 per cent increase from 2016.