Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing has been replaced as Asia’s richest man by a relative newcomer, Alibaba chief Jack Ma.
But the veteran property and ports tycoon nicknamed “Superman” wished the 50-year-old mainland entrepreneur all the best as Ma took the top spot in the region in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a position Li had held since April 5, 2012.
“I am nothing but happy when young people from China do well,” Li, 86, said via his spokeswoman. A spokesman at Alibaba declined to comment on Ma’s net worth.
Ma, a former English teacher who started the Hangzhou-based company in his flat in 1999, has added US$25 billion to his fortune this year, riding a 54 per cent surge in the company’s shares since its September initial public offering. He has a US$28.6 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg ranking. Li has a net worth of US$28.3 billion.
“The billionaires in China are growing their wealth faster because China’s economy is still developing, with plenty of room for growth,” said Francis Ying, an analyst at Yuanta Research.
“Hong Kong is already a mature market.”
Alibaba’s US$259 billion market capitalisation makes it larger than Amazon and eBay combined, and more valuable than all but eight companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
More than half of Ma’s wealth comes from his 6.3 per cent stake in Alibaba, valued at US$16.3 billion. He also controls almost half of Alibaba’s closely held finance unit, including online-payment service Alipay.
Ma’s interest in the online-payment company is expected to dilute in the next three to five years, with new investors or stock distribution to employees. Ma will not realise any benefit from the dilution, Alibaba says.
Alibaba raised a record US$25 billion in its September 18 IPO, selling shares for US$68 each. They were trading at US$104.97 in New York yesterday.
“If you look at the whole Chinese internet space as a group, it’s definitely getting very significant,” said Tony Chu, a money manager for RS Investment. Alibaba has become “a global stock, which you cannot ignore”.
Li, who controls Cheung Kong (Holdings), one of the world’s three biggest property developers, has seen his fortune fall US$1.9 billion this year, according to the Bloomberg ranking. While shares of the real-estate company gained this year, some of his other investments, including Husky Energy, have dropped.
Li started with a plastic-flower factory and began investing in Hong Kong property after the 1967 riots depressed prices.