Ma Huateng, the CEO of China Internet heavyweight Tencent Holdings, is back on top as the country’s richest man.
Tencent shares climbed by 7% in Hong Kong on Thursday to close at HK$654 amid growth hopes, boosting Ma’s fortune by $4 billion to an estimated $63.4 billion on the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires List. That led him past previous No. 1, Nongfu Spring CEO Zhong Shanshan, whose estimated wealth ended the day at $62.9 billion.
Zhong, China’s bottled water king, has enjoyed a spectacular rise in his fortune following Nongfu Spring’s Sept. 8 listing at HK$21.50 a share at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Its shares peaked at HK$66.60 on Jan. 8, and approached that level on Feb. 17, closing at HK$65.95.
It’s been mostly downhill since. Nongfu Spring closed at a four-and-a-half-month low of HK$38.75 on Wednesday this week, before rebounding to HK$40.15 on Thursday. At Thursday’s close, Nongfu Spring’s shares have lost 39% of their value since Feb. 17.
Tencent, for its part, hasn’t had a great run of late, either. Its shares are down by 6.3% since March 2, and off by 14% from a recent closing high of HK$761 on Feb. 10. Still, the Shenzhen-headquartered operator of China’s big WeChat social network of more than one billion users has recently given shareholders better earnings growth than Nongfu Spring.
Tencent said on March 24 its net profit in 2020 rose by 175% to 59.3 billion yuan, on revenue that gained 26% to 133 billion yuan. Nongfu Spring, by contrast, on March 25 said revenue fell by 4.8% last year to 22.9 billion yuan; its net profit gained by 6.3% to 5.3 billion yuan.
Ma, 49, who is also known as Pony Ma, co-founded Tencent in 1998.
China is home to the world’s second-largest number of billionaires after the United States, but has been closing the gap.
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