September 24, 2012 / 9:13 AM / 5 years ago

Beverage magnate tops China's rich list; property slips

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's super-rich saw their wealth shrink this year as property lost its spot as the number one source of wealth for the first time since record-keeping began, China's annual rich list shows.

Nearly half of China's 1,000 or so richest individuals and families suffered a loss of wealth over the past year, mainly those involved in the solar, textiles and retail sectors, according to the China Rich List published annually by Hurun Report Inc.

China's richest person, Zong Qinghong, hails from Wahaha Group, China's leading beverage maker. Wang Jianlin, who holds the number two spot, is founder and chairman of property developer and cinema operator Dalian Wanda Group, which recently acquired U.S.-based AMC Entertainment.

Zong's fortune totals $12.6 billion, according to the report, while Wang trails at $10.3 billion.

The threshold to make the rich list fell by 9 percent to $290 million, but the lower figure is still three times higher than the cut-off in 2007.

China had 2.7 million U.S. dollar millionaires as of August 15 this year, the report said, while the number of dollar billionaires fell by 20 to 251.

Manufacturing replaced property as the top source of wealth for the ultra-wealthy. Property was number two, followed by finance and investment, natural resources, and pharmaceuticals.

Responding to public anger over soaring property prices, the government in 2010 launched policies aimed at cooling the market. Stock prices of listed developers have suffered as a result.

An unfortunate 469 individuals on the list have seen their wealth shrink since last year, while 291 saw their wealth grow, 114 stayed the same and 150 people appeared on the list for the first time.

"Although this year has seen some significant wealth bloodletting, it is worth remembering that these entrepreneurs are still up 40 percent on two years ago and almost 10 times 10 years ago," Rupert Hoogewerf, founder and chairman of Hurun Report, said in a statement.

Beijing is home to the largest number of China's super rich with 123 of them, followed by Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, in east China's Zhejiang province, and Guangzhou, in the southern province of Guangdong.

Hoogewerf, a British accountant, began publishing the list in 1999. It draws from a broad range of sources, and the report concedes that "valuing the wealth of China's richest is as much an art as it is a science".

"We have missed some people, but we believe the Hurun Rich List is the most serious attempt to identify China's top entrepreneurs and to measure their holdings," the report said.

Hurun Report publishes four luxury lifestyle magazines and hosts business events targeting China's wealthy.

(Reporting by Gabriel Wildau; Editing by Robert Birsel)

This story has been corrected to show that Wang Jianlin's company is Dalian Wanda

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